AUGUSTA, Ga. – To say that no one should be disadvantaged in their ability to vote, Augusta National and Masters President Fred Ridley would not go so far as to condemn the controversial Georgia voting law that caused Major League Baseball to withdraw -Star Game from Atlanta and other companies to criticize the legislation.
As part of his pre-tournament annual news conference in Augusta National, Ridley said “the right to vote is fundamental in our democratic society. No one should be disadvantaged in exercising this right and it is vital that all citizens trust the electoral process. This is fundamental for who we are as a people.
“We are aware that views and opinions on this law are different and there have been calls for boycotts and other sanctions. Unfortunately, these actions often place the greatest burdens on the most vulnerable in our society. And in this case, it includes our friends and neighbors here in Augusta, which is the very focus of the positive difference we are trying to make. “
The 98-page measure was signed into law by Georgian Government Brian Kemp on March 25. Opponents of the law say it will, among other things, restrict access to the right to vote, especially for people of color.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who last week announced that the All-Star Game would be moved from Georgia due to voter law, is a member of Augusta National. Ridley was not asked about baseball̵
“I believe, and I am convinced, that every member of this club believes that voting is an essential fundamental right in our society, and that – as I said, anything that is unfavorable for anyone to vote for, is wrong and should be treated, ”Ridley said. “I do not want to talk about the details of the law, but I know … I think there is a decision and I think the decision will be based on people working together and talking and having constructive dialogue, “because that’s how our democratic society works. And even though I know you want us to make a statement on this, I just do not think it will be useful in the end to reach a solution.”
According to records from the Federal Election Commission, on December 1, Ridley provided $ 2,800 to “Perdue for Senate,” $ 2,800 to “Senate Georgia Battleground Fund” and $ 5,600 to WinRed, a Republican party fundraising platform. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were Republican senators from Georgia who each lost in a drain on Jan. 5 that saw the majority in the U.S. Senate switch to the Democratic Party. Georgia was also narrowly won by President Joe Biden in November over allegations of electoral fraud by then-President Donald Trump that were not substantiated.
Ridley, who has served as Masters chairman since replacing Billy Payne in 2017, announced the fact that the Masters would honor Lee Elder on Thursday morning as an honorary starter. Elder was the first black golfer to participate in the Masters in 1975. He started the tournament with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
Elder “bravely broke barriers when his name was announced on the first tee,” Ridley said. “And I can’t wait to get the honor of introducing Lee and celebrating his inspiring legacy with our patrons and viewers around the world.”
Augusta National has committed to awarding two scholarships in the name of seniors to the golf programs at Paine College in Augusta, a predominantly black school. As part of this, the club has committed to starting from scratch a women’s golf program at the required cost.
Cameron Champ is the only black player in the Masters field with 88 players this week. He has done his own work to predominantly support Black college golf and said he was disappointed with the new Georgia voting law.
“As you can tell, it’s really targeted at certain black communities and makes it harder to vote, which to me is everyone’s right to vote,” Champ said, speaking before Ridley’s press conference. “For me to see that, it’s very shocking. Of course with what MLB and what they did to move the All-Star Game was a big statement. I know there are a lot of other organizations and companies that have moved things.
“This is a prestigious event and I know there is a lot going on with it and people involved in it. It was a little frustrating to see it. This week I will definitely support some things during the week.”