The Pellucid Perspective - January 2014 - (Page 8)

GOLF LITIGATION Gender-based golf promotions carry risk Article advises caution on otherwise praiseworthy grow-the-game initiatives By Jim Dunlap T he fact that the National Golf Foundation (NGF) has pegged the female half of the U.S. population as representing only 20 percent of the country's active golfer base presents an inviting opportunity for those well-intentioned folks in the golf industry hoping to stem the decline in overall participation by attracting more women to the game. Despite their good intentions, a recent legal journal article advises that they take steps to ensure that their good deed goes unpunished. The article, entitled "Are Career Plaintiffs Crippling Golf 's Growth?," appeared in a recent issue of the International InHouse Counsel Journal and was authored by Andrew Fleming, Business Development VP and Senior Counsel for Golf Channel, USA and Golf Channel Intern Raquel Hoover. While encouraging efforts to reach out to women and other under-represented populations in golf, the authors urge golf companies and courses to craft those efforts carefully, to avoid running afoul of "career plaintiffs" or others who may feel discriminated against by any access or financial advantage offered in such promotional strategies. The numerous lawsuits cited in the article, some involving golf, clearly indicated that depending upon the jurisdiction, legal danger may lurk for even the most well-meaning party. "We wouldn't want the article to have a cooling effect on those forward-thinking operators who are trying to promote the game to under-represented demographics," Fleming said, "but we do want them to be aware of potential consequences." Fleming, who in addition to his responsibilities for The Golf Channel advises and negotiates partnerships on behalf of GolfNow's tee time marketing business, practices what he preaches in that regard. GolfNow was contemplating the addition of a specific women-friendly category of tee time inventory on its web portals promoting female-friendly courses or allowing courses to display specific female-only rates and times. In the due diligence process, they ran across several gender-based discrimination lawsuits that will be detailed in the following paragraphs that caused the company to shelve that idea. The article points out that in most cases, the anti-discrimination statutes upon which most lawsuits are based were rightfully intended to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of race, creed, sex or national origin. There are, however, instances where the statutes are written or interpreted so broadly that policies, promotions or activities that may technically discriminate to one degree or another but are basically harmless lose in court and are forced to discontinue at best, and result in significant fines, attorney fees and damages at worst. And, as Fleming pointed out, "There are always some folks out there looking for an easy payday." Not surprisingly, California, which bases the majority of its legal decisions on the extremely broad Unruh Civil Rights Act, was home to several of the golf-related cases cited in Fleming and Hoover's article, two of which stemmed from suits filed by one Steve Frye. When Eagle Vines Vineyards & Golf Club in Napa, Calif., held a Ladies Day promotion on a Monday in December 2010, charging women a discounted rate of $30 to play while men paid $44, Mr. Frye was playing that day, and took offense. (Or saw an opportunity for a quick legal score, take your pick). Frye sued, and some time later the case settled out of court, quite likely rewarding Frye and his attorney for their staunch defense of the rights of poor downtrodden men everywhere. The same Steve Frye was also one of the plaintiffs in a suit filed against retailers including Golf Galaxy and virtually every deep-pocketed major golf equipment manufacturer featured at the stores for a "Women's Night" promotion at the store which denied access to the store to men for a couple of hours unless they were married to a female shopper. (Frye, however, met his match when he tackled both Donald Trump and breast cancer, according to a recent post on Rob Harris's Golf Dispute Resolution blog. Being aware of a breast cancer awareness promotion at The Donald's Trump National Los Angeles course during the month of October 2010 featuring a 25 percent reduction in greens fees for women, Frye intentionally scheduled a round at the full rate before the month ended, and immediately contacted his attorney following his round. This time, however, the court ruled that breast cancer awareness constituted a strong enough public policy goal to offset the disparity in pricing). While encouraging efforts to reach out to women and other under-represented populations in golf, the authors urge golf companies and courses to craft those efforts carefully, to avoid running afoul of "career plaintiffs" or others who may feel discriminated against by any access or financial advantage offered in such promotional strategies. 8 The Pellucid PersPecTive January 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - January 2014

TOC
2013: Farewell vs. good riddance – Industry bends but doesn't break
GolfNow's PMP sales pitch: Join or be stolen from
College Golf Pass aims to close golf's participation "doughnut hole"
Gender-based golf promotions carry risk
Orlando – Golf Central USA
December golf weather impact: Significant down month closes year of downs
Development restraint buoys Miami golf market
GreatLife expands business model into 3rd state
The PGA Show – just like a box of chocolates

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