AUGUSTA, GA. — In the wake of Major League Baseball moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver because of new Georgia voting laws, the Masters was bound to face awkward questions.
Located at Augusta National Golf Club, the Masters wasn't going to move or postpone. So what would the club chairman, Fred Ridley, say about the issue in the traditional Wednesday chairman's news conference?
He addressed the issue in his opening statement but stopped short of condemning the new laws, which Democrats say intend to suppress votes, particularly those of Black citizens.
"I believe, as does everyone in our organization, that the right to vote is fundamental in our democratic society," he said. "No one should be disadvantaged in exercising that right, and it is critical that all citizens have confidence in the electoral process. This is fundamental to who we are as a people.
"We realize that views and opinions on this law differ, and there have been calls for boycotts and other punitive measures. Unfortunately, those actions often impose the greatest burdens on the most vulnerable in our society. And in this case, that includes our friends and neighbors here in Augusta who are the very focus of the positive difference we are trying to make."
Ridley did not say if he was for or against the bill, SB202.
"I don't think that my opinion on this legislation should shape the discussion," he said.
SB202 was passed last month with a party-line vote after record turnout during the last election, when President Joe Biden and two Democratic senators won Georgia. President Biden has called it a "Jim Crow" law, and major corporations based in Georgia, including Delta and Coca-Cola, have also criticized it.
When asked, most golfers at the Masters either avoided commenting, like Phil Mickelson, or said they were in favor of voting rights, like Rory Mcilroy.
One player took a stronger stand — Cameron Champ, the only Black player at this year's tournament.
"I think a lot of people are very disappointed to see that," he said. "As you can tell, it really targets certain Black communities and makes it harder to vote, which, to me, it's everyone's right to vote. For me to see that, it's very shocking. Obviously, with MLB and what they did and moving the All-Star Game was a big statement. I know there's a bunch of other organizations and companies that have moved things. Again, this is a prestigious event, and I know there's a lot going on with it and the people involved with it.
"But again, yeah, it was definitely a little bit frustrating to see that. This week I'll definitely be supporting doing some things throughout the week."
On Thursday morning, in a move announced last November, Lee Elder will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in hitting the ceremonial tee shots to start the tournament. Elder is the first Black man to play in the Masters, in 1975.