For immediate release: Friday August 6, 1999
For more information: Monroe Gilmour 828-669-6677
Western North Carolina Citizens For An End To Insitutional Bigotry
PO Box 18640 Asheville, NC 28814
Tel: 828-669-6677 Fax 828-669-8862
Civil rights organization asks if Biltmore Forest Country Club is hiding something from the public and from the U.S. Golf Association
-U.S. Golf Association Women's Amateur Championship comes to Asheville-
An Asheville, NC-based civil rights organization expressed concern Friday that the Biltmore Forest Country Club has refused to divulge information about its practices regarding membership of women and minorities even as the club hosts a national women's golf championship.
"We recognize the BFCC is a private club, but when its members take on as public an event as the US Women's Amateur Championship, they owe it to the community to be clear and open about their membership practices, " said Monroe Gilmour, coordinator of Western North Carolina Citizens For An End to Institutional Bigotry (WNCCEIB).
Working with some club members and others in the community, WNCCEIB led the successful effort in 1990 and 1991 that resulted in the club's membership voting to state clearly and to put into practice non-discriminatory policies. The club's practices prior to that vote included not admitting as members or guests people of color or people of the Jewish faith.
WNCCEIB's July 17 letter this year to the club General Manager Jon D. Knobbe stated, "we feel that this national event coming to our community provides an excellent opportunity for the BFCC and the community to revisit the (discriminatory practices) issue and assess the substance of the changes that were voted by the membership in 1991."
"We approached them again in a constructive spirit with nine general questions and had no intent of making it a public matter. We also offered to pull together key leaders in the community to meet with them," said Gilmour. "We are disappointed that the club refused to meet or answer basic questions like whether women have full voting privileges at the club, whether the club has any minority members, or whether there is any public funding involved in this event. The club's refusal to answer these questions affects our community's reputation and the integrity of this USGA golf tournament."
Gilmour called on the club and the USGA to take action, "The bottom-line of this avoidable incident is that the club's members need to be up-front with the community and the USGA, the USGA needs to insist they do, and the USGA needs to reassess the rigor of its site-selection process."
"Everything may be just fine," said Gilmour, " but the defensive and non-cooperative approach of the club's management raises a red flag. It's as if they are hiding something even if they have nothing to hide."
Gilmour said that WNCCEIB was directed by Mr. Knobbe in refusal letters dated July 29 and August 4 (see copy below) to a U.S. Golf Association representative who was the club's contact for site selection. Gilmour stated, "The USGA representative told me the USGA tries to ensure that host clubs do not have discriminatory practices. She also said that the club management told the USGA that it had a 'number of minority members.' When I asked if there are any African-American members, the representative explained that the USGA did not ask which minorities are among the members and that I would have to go back to the club for those answers."
Gilmour added, "Many people in the community are volunteering to help with this event, many government representatives have no doubt assisted the USGA and the club, and Governor Jim Hunt has a full page in the event's glossy program welcoming the USGA to North Carolina. For a club whose membership is comprised of prominent community leaders to get public support and then refuse to answer basic questions about its membership practices and hide behind the fact that it is a 'private' club is disingenuous. If the Biltmore Forest Country Club wants to be that private, perhaps the members should reconsider hosting such events."
The nine questions that WNCCEIB asked in its July 17 letter are the following: "1. Does the BFCC currently have any Black, Jewish, or other minority members? If yes, how many of each? If not, have there been applications from minority citizens that were turned down?
2. Do women have full membership and voting privileges at the BFCC?
3. In the case of a member's divorce, what is the status of the woman's membership?
4. Does the BFCC have any single women members? (Aside from the Senior or widowed female members)
5. How frequently would you say Black, Jewish, or other minority community members visit the BFCC as guests?
6. How would you characterize the welcome/reception of such community members when they do visit? (Is there any ongoing orientation or protocols for members/staff on this issue?)
7. How would you characterize how the BFCC members have accepted and adjusted to the new practices?
8. Does the BFCC have any restrictions on members' and guests' business activities while at the Club? If so, please elucidate.
9. What, if any, in-kind or monetary contributions are municipal, county, or state governments providing toward the putting on the championship?"
The US Women's Amateur Championship has free admission throughout its August 9-14 tournament in Asheville.
WNCCEIB is a non-profit organization that works with victims of hate crimes, monitors white supremacy activity in western North Carolina, and works with institutions in the region on diversity issues. In 1996, WNCCEIB was instrumental in exposing the all-white, all-male Rod & Gun Club partying monthly on Asheville Watershed property where the public is prohibited. Among that club's members were the City Manager, the Chair of the County School Board and a candidate for Mayor. The Rod and Gun Club is no longer allowed to meet on Watershed property. WNCCEIB has a web page at www.main.nc.us/wncceib/
Other contact numbers:
Jon D. Knobbe, GM BFCC 828-274-1261 For copies of correspondence 828-669-6677
Kendra Graham, USGA 908-234-2300
August 4, 1999 Letter to WNCCEIB from Biltmore Forest Country Club
Dear Mr. Gilmour:
Thank you for your letter of August 2, 1999. Your questions numbered 1 through 8 deal with club membership. The Club's policy is that information pertaining to membership should remain private.
The remaining question concerns the USGA Women's Championship. As I advised you earlier, you may address questions about the Championship to Ms. Kendra Graham at the USGA, telephone number: 908-234-2300.
Jon D. Knobbe, CCM
General Manager/Assistant Secretary
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