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Exxon catches heat for sponsoring Masters

A group of Exxon Mobil Corp. shareholders said on Wednesday it has filed a resolution accusing the oil company of discrimination against women for sponsoring the Masters golf tournament.
/ Source: Reuters

A group of Exxon Mobil Corp. shareholders said on Wednesday it has filed a resolution accusing the oil company of discrimination against women for sponsoring the Masters golf tournament.

The leading proponent of the resolution, which now must be voted on by shareholders, is Martha Burk, head of the National Council of Women’s Organizations. She has waged a long-running battle with the Augusta National Golf Club, host of the Masters, over its refusal to admit women as members.

Exxon confirmed the resolution had been filed and will appear in the company’s proxy, which will be filed with U.S. regulators next week.

Unsuccessful at convincing the club to open its doors to women in a battle three years ago, Burk has lately focused her attention on pressuring Masters sponsors and club members.

One of the world’s prime sports television advertising properties, the Masters aired without commercials in 2003 and 2004 but welcomed back Exxon Mobil, SBC Communications and IBM as sponsors last year. This year’s tournament starts Thursday.

It is the first time the resolution has been filed at Exxon, which frequently attracts resolutions over a myriad of issues ranging from global warming to sexual orientation discrimination.

The proposal calls for management to report all expenses at or related to venues that discriminate against women, and accuses the company of violating its anti-discrimination policy by sponsoring the Masters.

“ExxonMobil would not sponsor such an event if it were held at a venue that discriminated against African-Americans or other racial minorities,” Burk said in a statement. “It should be no different for women.”

The resolution was also sponsored by members of a group called Responsible Wealth, which promotes income equality.

An Exxon spokesman said the company chooses which organizations and events to support based on an assessment of business needs, fit with corporate social objectives and overall effectiveness.

“For example, ExxonMobil chose to sponsor the Masters Tournament because it provides a unique opportunity to promote the Company’s messages, including ExxonMobil’s support for education, to its wide international audience,” the company said in a statement.