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PGA Championship Losing Ad Money Over Racism Charges

July 28, 1990

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ At least five major corporations have pulled television commercials for the PGA Championship because the host club has no black members. ABC said Friday it has lost nearly $2 million in ad revenue.

Leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said they were planning to picket the Aug. 9-12 tournament despite an appeal from Birmingham’s mayor, who said the club had agreed to admit blacks.

American Honda Motor Co. on Friday announced it planned to pull its ads from the tournament, which is to be aired the first two days on the ESPN cable network and the final two days by ABC.

Bob Butorac, a Honda spokesman in Los Angeles, said the firm had planned to run ads during the ESPN portion of the tournament but would pull them ″due to questions arising from the membership policies of the host club.″

″American Honda believes this is a sound business decision and is consistent with the company’s philosophy as an equal-opportunity employer.″

Toyota, IBM, Anheuser-Busch and Lincoln-Mercury earlier said they were withdrawing commercials from both networks. Delta Airlines said it would reduce its involvement with the PGA.

The Shoal Creek club, which has a $35,000 initiation fee, has never had a black member. The club has no bylaws that prohibit exclusion of would-be members based on race.

The club’s founder, Hall Thompson, told a reporter six weeks ago that Shoal Creek would not be pressured into accepting black members. Thompson later apologized and said his remarks had been taken out of context.

Richard Arrington, Birmingham’s first black mayor, told a news conference Thursday that Thompson had promised to change the club’s bylaws to state that no member could be turned down because of race.

But the Rev. Abraham Woods, Birmingham SCLC president, said that Shoal Creek must get a black member before the tournament to avoid protests.

Steve Bradley, chairman of publicity for the tournament, said he believes it is a moot question whether Shoal Creek could get a black member by then.

″Some individuals who have worked very hard behind the scenes now tell me they don’t believe anyting will satisfy Dr. Woods and his people,″ said Bradley.

In Washington, Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., introduced legislation Friday that would prohibit dues paid to private clubs from being deducted as a business expense for federal income tax purposes if the club discriminates on the basis of race, color, sex or religion.

″It’s obvious the code does not effectively deal with clubs such as Shoal Creek that have no written policy, but an admitted pattern of racial discrimination,″ he said.

ABC’s advertising losses are approaching $2 million, said Steve Solomon, senior vice president of ABC Sports, ″and we’ve had indications from other advertisers that they may be pulling out as well.″

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