The club business is certainly not immune to scrutiny, and legitimate criticism, surrounding the renewed focus on eliminating offensive images and practices from America’s social fabric. But that doesn’t mean tradition can’t still be defended.
The club business is certainly not immune to scrutiny, and legitimate criticism, surrounding the renewed focus on eliminating offensive images and practices from America’s social fabric.
The industry can expect to have a big target on its back as a business segment that’s generally perceived, fairly or not, as one of the biggest offenders when it comes to exclusionary policies and poor track records for hiring a diverse workforce and providing equitable advancement opportunities. If you haven’t already done so, your Board and management team should already be proactively preparing responses to demonstrate either why those charges don’t apply to your particular club, or to acknowledge where you’ve fallen short and show how you’re taking steps to improve in those areas. Because it’s only a matter of time before every club will feel some heat to defend its record or change its ways.
Beyond those larger issues, many clubs are also having fingers pointed at them for retaining vestiges of history and tradition that no longer play well in the current social climate. Several clubs have recently dropped “Plantation” or other associations with the Old South or Confederacy from their names, and it’s hard to argue there was any reason to try to hold on to those types of connections.
Some other examples that have been put under the microscope, however, aren’t quite as cut and dried. Our report about the Philadelphia Cricket Club (PCC) and its logo that depicts a Native American drew high readership when we first posted it online (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/philadelphia-cricket-club-asked-to-discontinue-logo/), and it wasn’t just because it’s long been recognized as one of the club industry’s most distinctive and popular symbols. Many clubs could relate to the dilemma that PCC now faces, because they too have connections with similar imagery.
I was recently at one club where the GM showed me a totem pole on the property and a trophy area within the clubhouse that included a framed headdress and other similarly themed objects. All relate to that club’s participation in a longstanding golf tournament with other area clubs (in a region with a rich Native American heritage) that has provided generous support to local charities.
This GM told me he’d seen our report on PCC and immediately realized he probably needed to be ready to face similar challenges. If and when that came about, he hoped he would be able to make a persuasive argument for why the event has not directed any disrespect at any culture and why its traditional symbolism is worth preserving, to maximize its popularity and the charitable benefits it produces.
For this club and others with similar situations, I’d suggest taking a cue from what we’ve seen among the professional sports teams that have also come under renewed fire. The Washington [Football Team] relented, finally, to end its use of a name and imagery that were hard to defend. Baseball’s Braves and Indians are proving to be a little more resistant to the pressure to change. And hockey’s Chicago Blackhawks (whose logo is very similar to the Cricket Club’s) made it clear the team has no plans to make any change, citing how its name and logo “symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public.”
Just as our report notes that the logo issue has prompted internal discussions within the Cricket Club, it’s healthy for all clubs to now engage staff, members and leadership in a review of traditions and practices. But that shouldn’t be undertaken with the assumption that it must always lead to change, and that no tradition can now be defended or still held in high regard.