Just when we begin to fear that sport is in danger of being taken over by the forces of evil, from out of nowhere comes an athlete to inspire and uplift us all. His name is Casey Martin.
Until recently I knew only part of Martin's extraordinary story. He was local, fighting great odds in trying to make it to the PGA Tour by competing on the Nike tour, which we sponsor. But because he was local, many Oregonians—including attorney John Jaqua, who has been on our board since our annual sales were less than $1 million—encouraged me to take a closer look.
Oh, my goodness, what I saw was what the world sees now: a young man of enormous courage and determination who just wants a chance. Plus he has a Stanford background and a home in Nike's spiritual birthplace, Eugene. So we became partners, and that very week he won the year's first Nike tour event. How's that for good management?
It hasn't occurred to me that Casey Martin will lose his lawsuit with the PGA Tour. I'm actually more concerned—this will shock some—about the Tour, which has so earnestly forgotten what matters most. The Tour could have made a great statement about inclusiveness. It could have blasted a huge hole in the elitist boundaries that Tiger Woods began to break through in 1997. Instead it chose to oppose Martin.
The Tour is run ably by a good man, Tim Finchem—a sharp contrast to that cold NBA litigator, David Stern. But Stern would never have let this issue come to a lawsuit. He would have embraced Martin, the kid who didn't know he wasn't supposed to play on the Tour, the kid whose love of golf kept him walking.
Finchem sincerely believes his sport will be harmed by an exception to the walking rule. Most of the golf establishment agrees. As a relative newcomer to golf, Nike doesn't want a fight with the establishment, but we won't run from a fight, either.