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Titleist ends boycott of Sports Illustrated

June 27, 1997

SOMERS POINT, N.J. (AP) _ Titleist, which pulled more than $1 million in ads from Sports Illustrated to protest the magazine’s coverage of women’s golf, has ended its boycott of the publication.

``We met with representatives of SI and voiced our concerns about editorial direction,″ Titleist spokesman Joe Gomes said Friday. ``We decided to resume advertising on a week-to-week basis.″

A spokesman for Sports Illustrated confirmed there was a meeting with Titleist officials but said the meeting involved no one from the editorial division of SI.

``Our policy remains the same, nothing has changed,″ SI spokesman Art Berke said. ``Our editors decide the content of the magazine.″

Titleist resumed advertising in SI with the June 9 issue, Gomes said. That was a week after American Brands, the parent company of Titleist, changed its name to Fortune Brands and spun off its tobacco company, Gallaher Tobacco.

While two sources familiar with the situation said that Wally Uihlein, the chief executive officer of Titleist and Foot-Joy Worldwide, came under intense pressure from the revamped parent company to end the boycott, Gomes insisted these was no interference.

``It was never an American Brands boycott,″ Gomes said. ``It was our decision. It was a decision by Wally Uihlein.″

The June 30 issue of Sports Illustrated contained a full-page ad for Titleist, a two-page ad for Foot-Joy golf shoes and a full-page ad for Fortune Brands featuring the Titleist ball, its Scotty Cameron putter and Tiger Woods.

Uihlein pulled his company’s ads from the 450,000 circulation Golf Plus edition of SI after an April 7 article on the lesbian party surrounding the Dinah Shore tournament.

Uihlein cited that story, an SI piece last year in which LPGA player Muffin Spencer-Devlin revealed she was a lesbian and an item about Laura Baugh’s alcoholism and eating disorder as ``symptomatic of a condescending mind-set toward women in golf in general.″

Jim Herre, editor of the Golf Plus section of SI, referred comment Friday to Berke. He defended the articles when the boycott was announced.

``Some people in the golf industry are not used to straight ahead journalism,″ Herre said at the time. ``If you look at the stories that he cited, they did nothing but tell the truth.″

LPGA commissioner Jim Ritts, who said that women’s golf at times suffers from media coverage that focuses more on off-course stories rather than on competition, applauded the return of Titleist to SI.

``We supported Wally Uihlein in his right to make that decision,″ Ritts said Friday at the Shoprite Classic. ``But it was time for Titleist to be back in Sports Illustrated.″

Uihlein’s main complaint was that the lesbian article was longer than the Dinah Shore tournament story in the April 7 issue of SI.

``The Dinah piece was the straw that broke the camel’s back,″ Uihlein said when he announced the boycott.

In the midst of the Titleist boycott, SI published exactly the kind of article Uihlein had criticized it for not having. A lengthy piece on the rivalry between Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb appeared in the main section of SI in the May 12 issue.

``It was good to see that kind of journalism about women’s golf,″ Ritts said.

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