Free speech, Phoenix CC and China

Oh mama. This is harsh. While all my attention has been focused on China and the upcoming debacle Olympic Games, it appears that another sporting venue — the Phoenix Country Club — has taken a page out of the Olympic communications guidebook and is suppressing free speech.

Here’s the story, “Phoenix Club Expels Member Over His Press Interview,” in The New York Times:

A country club in Phoenix has expelled a member for speaking to The New York Times about the club’s policy of forbidding women in its men’s grillroom, a point of dispute among some members.

Rusty Brown, an accomplished golfer at the upscale Phoenix Country Club, said Wednesday that he received a letter this week informing him that he had been expelled for “multiple violations of club etiquette.”

Mr. Brown said he understood that the expulsion pertained to a bylaw recently adopted by the club’s board prohibiting “derogatory or otherwise injurious comments in the media” about the club.

For over a year, the club has come under scrutiny and threat of a lawsuit over a rule that allows only men in the well-appointed grill, known in Phoenix as a center of business dealing. Women are relegated to a smaller room with a hot plate down the hall.

In an article in The Times on June 28, Mr. Brown was quoted as saying that most men who belonged to the club “are indifferent to the policy or are against it,” and he suggested that it ought to be changed.

A country club in Phoenix has to work hard to get this kind of national publicity. Congratulations. And honestly, what really causes me some concern here — beyond the obvious free speech issue and treatment of women members and guests — is that I am about to leave for lunch in the grill room at Fairlawn Country Club, with Stephanie Moore. Stephanie is replacing me on the Kent State University journalism faculty. Let’s hope there aren’t any scribblers from the Akron Beacon Journal or The Plain Dealer dining there as well.

Then back to China and the Olympic Games. Cough. Cough.

Looks like the officials are having second thoughts about allowing journalists access to events and coverage — even limiting the ability to post on the Internet. According to The New York Times article:

The International Olympic Committee failed to press China to allow fully unfettered access to the Internet for the thousands of journalists arriving here to cover the Olympics, despite promising repeatedly that the foreign news media could “report freely” during the Games, Olympic officials acknowledged Wednesday.

Since the Olympic Village press center opened Friday, reporters have been unable to access scores of Web pages — among them those that discuss Tibetan issues, Taiwanese independence, the violent crackdown on the protests in Tiananmen Square and the Web sites of Amnesty International, the BBC’s Chinese-language news, Radio Free Asia and several Hong Kong newspapers known for their freewheeling political discourse.

The restrictions, which closely resemble the blocks that China places on the Internet for its citizens, undermine sweeping claims by Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, that China had agreed to provide full Web access for foreign news media during the Games. Mr. Rogge has long argued that one of the main benefits of awarding the Games to Beijing was that the event would make China more open.

Somehow I know this is going to screw up the coverage of women’s beach volleyball. Oh well. Wonder if the Phoenix Country Club permits beach volleyball? Just a thought.

OK. I’m going to lunch now at Fairlawn CC. Wish me luck.

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One response to “Free speech, Phoenix CC and China

  1. You better be careful, Dad. One of the things I’m looking forward to whenever I return from the Buda is the French Onion Soup at FCC–even if I can’t enjoy it in the Men’s Card Room. And if you get us kicked out there, not only will the soup days vanish, but how where else would a month’s supply of peppermints casually slide into mom’s purse on the way out the door to the valet?

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