NBC Sports broadcaster Bob Costas said CBS Sports is too soft in its coverage of the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club. In an appearance on the "Dan Patrick Show" on Friday morning, Costas said the club's "history of racism and sexism" is the "elephant in the room" that is never addressed during CBS Sports' broadcasts of the tournament.
The club has retaliated against broadcasters who treat the tournament irreverently. In his interview on the "Dan Patrick Show," Costas alluded to Jack Whitiker, a CBS broadcaster who was banned from covering the tournament after referring to the Augusta crowd as a "mob" in 1996. More recently, the network sidelined analyst Gary McCord in 1994 after he said the greens at Augusta National were so fast the club must use "bikini wax" on them.
What no CBS commentator has ever alluded to -- even in passing, even during rain delay, even when there was time to do so -- is Augusta's history of racism and sexism. Even when people were protesting just outside the grounds -- forget about taking a side, never acknowledging it. So not only would I never work the Masters because I'm not at CBS, but I'd have to say something and then I would be ejected.
Not that Augusta isn't a lovely place, not that [Augusta National chairman] Billy Payne, who ran the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, isn't my friend, not that I haven't played there with him, which I did the one time I visited. I stayed in Butler Cabin. It was the most gracious wonderful thing you could ever imagine. And yet they do have a history that ought to be reckoned with that they've only recently come to terms with, if you call this coming to terms with it.
Costas said that CBS Sports should find a way to address the club's history during the broadcast without interfering with the golf. Lee Elder was the first African American to play the tournament in 1975, 14 years after the PGA of America removed the "Caucasian only" clause from its rules and allowed African-Americans to play on Tour, and 28 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. The club admitted its first African American member in 1990, and admitted its first women members last year.
I'm not talking about forcing this issue down people's throats while Tiger Woods is lining up a birdie putt. ...You can watch Costas' full interview here; he starts talking about Augusta National at the 11:30 mark:
I just think somebody should have had the guts to do it at some point along the way. Broadcaster, executive, somebody should have talked to somebody at Augusta and said, "Look, this is an issue. And this is not Nightline or Meet the Press, we understand that, but this is an issue, and it's an elephant in the room and we're going to address it. As concisely as we can, but we're going to address it so that our heads are not in the collective sand trap.