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Private club furor follows grand marshall to MSU


“This year’s Homecoming offers a golden opportunity to celebrate what it means to be a Spartan,” said Joanne McPherson, MSU first lady and Homecoming Committee co-chairperson in a press release last week.

So what does it mean to be a Spartan? Admittedly, having written a story on the Sparty statue’s roots in fascist art, I was always under the impression that the Spartan ideal symbolizes an uncomfortable mix of sports, business and stereotypified masculinity.
A few days ago, a City Pulse reader brought to my attention (as I don’t read the sports section myself) that the grand marshall of MSU’s Homecoming this year, MSU alumnus Lloyd Ward, is one of 300 members of Augusta National Golf Club, which bans female members. When the parade starts at 6 p.m. Friday (Oct. 18) at Burcham Drive in East Lansing, this City Pulse reader wrote that she’d be “up for a protest!”

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Committee
Lloyd Ward is the grand marshall for MSU’s Homecoming events.

MSU picked Ward because he is “of such high regard here,” Sharon Radtke, an assistant director of MSU’s Special Programs at the Alumni Association.

Lloyd Ward, a 1970 graduate, is the CEO of the United States Olympic Committee. He earned the Jack Breslin Lifetime Achievement Award and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan State, where he received his bachelor’s degree in engineering, and where he was captain of the basketball team in 1970.

The Augusta club was back in the news this summer when the National Council of Women’s Organizations sent a letter asking the organization to reconsider its policy of excluding women. Augusta National Chairman William W. Johnson responded that “[the club] is a distinctively private club and cannot talk about its membership and practices with those outside the organization. Any further communication between us would not be productive.”
The women’s council’s next step was to send letters to the Masters Golf Tournament’s key sponsors, which include General Motors, IBM and Coca-Cola, requesting they suspend their financial support of the Masters Tournament on the grounds that it “legitimizes discrimination engaged by Augusta National.”

As a consequence, several Club members announced they’d be willing to support change.

Last week, Ward said he would work aggressively with other club members to back the admission of women. Ward, one of a handful of Augusta National’s African-American members, said in a letter to Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, that he was “committed to breaking down barriers which exclude women from membership at Augusta in the weeks and months ahead.” Burk told The New York Times that this latest support “would indicate that the problems at Augusta will be solved sooner than later.”

Radtke, who is in charge of coordinating the Homecoming event, said that when they decided to invite Ward, “we’d heard a little bit about the debate.” And after all, wasn’t Ward a good guy, since he was “working to get women in, and not to exclude them?” Radtke said that people who decided to protest or question the alumni association’s decision would be referred to a USA Today article “so that they know that he’s actually championing to get women into this club.” She said they hadn’t planned to raise awareness against discrimination during Homecoming week. After all, people “are just coming to have fun. We don’t want to get into anything heavy.”

Well, there is one “heavy” event planned on the Homecoming venue — MSU wants to top the current Guinness world record for the largest Rice Krispie treat, by making a 3,000-pound solid square of the marshmallow snack. For a small donation portions of the giant Rice Krispie will be available for consumption on the north side of Spartan Stadium this coming Saturday, and from golf carts cruising tailgate parties before, during and after the football game.

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