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PGA Commissioner Speaks on Supreme Court's Ruling

Aired May 29, 2001 - 14:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news here. We want to bring you the latest developments on the Casey Martin story. Supreme Court deciding earlier today that he was entitled to use his cart on the tour. Let's hear now from Tim Finchem, who's the PGA commissioner.

TIM FINCHEM, PGA COMMISSIONER: ... the last three years, we have the utmost admiration and respect for Casey Martin as a member of our tour. He is a delightful young man who has handled himself with dignity and with a great attitude given the scrutiny that's revolved around this case over the last three years and the extent to which litigation has been a distraction for him. And we, of course, wish him the best in his future endeavors on the PGA Tour.

I spoke to him this morning after I learned about the case. In fact, he did not know about it when I called him. And I told him that I was glad from his perspective it was over. I was sorry about the results of the litigation, but certainly was pleased from his perspective that he can now focus totally on golf and have this behind him. And there isn't any way now in the future that he can be involved in it. So we're pleased for him as we have been from the start. You have to be a Casey Martin fan, and we wish him the best.

Now, however, we turn to the prospect of dealing with this decision. And we have said from the start we felt that this argument in the courts was always about the question of whether or not the PGA Tour could apply its rules equally to all players. And while the specifics of the decision, that is to say that the position the tour took was not totally agreed to by the court having now had the opportunity with our lawyers to review the decision, preliminarily we are quite pleased that in the context of ruling for Casey, the Supreme Court seems to have taken the position that gives us the latitude to continue our rules as they relate to walking the golf course as part of our sport.

And the reason I say that is that back a couple of years to the decision that was handed down first in the 9th Circuit -- the district court in Oregon and then the very difficult opinion that was set forth by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in which they set a standard that was very awkward, very cumbersome, almost impossible to administer. And this court, the Supreme Court has taken a very different position in articulating their decision.

They have clearly -- they've done two things that we think are most important. One, the court is clearly focused in its decision on Casey Martin and Casey Martin only. A number of times in the opinion, they make it quite clear that they are not certain at all that this same decision would apply to any other competitor with respect to walking under the rules of the PGA Tour. In fact, they go so far as to say that Casey Martin may be the only individual in the world that has a combination of the talent necessary to play on the PGA Tour and a disability which precludes him, precludes him from walking the golf course and playing the game.

And as a consequence, the court goes further to suggest that they do not think that the act, the statute necessarily should apply to players who have difficulty walking the golf course or who suffer discomfort from walking the golf course. And as a consequence, I think we can reasonably assume from this initial reading of the opinion that we now have the flexibility to maintain our rules as they relate to walking. And while I wouldn't guarantee that that's the case, we have some further legal review to do.

I believe our recommendation to our policy board will be to continue our rules as written to allow this case to have been resolved as a matter that relates solely and only to Casey Martin and to take the opinion -- the analysis of our opinion as an indication that the courts will allow us to maintain the rules as long as a player has the capability to walk. And this is very important, because as we've said from the start, when we try to set up the best and greatest possible challenge to the best players in the world, we're doing so in a way that combines the setup of the golf course, the emotional stress of playing at this competitive level with a physical, athletic exertion requirement that comes from walking 18 holes of golf on various topography over four days of competition oftentimes in very difficult weather.

And it is the combination of those things that allows us to challenge these great players, and that in and of itself creates championship golf at the unique level that PGA Tour golf assumes. So if we are able to maintain...

CHEN: Tim Finchem, a commissioner of the PGA speaking with reporters in Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida -- that is the home of the PGA -- talking about the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Casey Martin. Of course, you know that he is the disabled golfer who fought to use the cart on the tour. Now the Supreme Court says that, yes, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, he is entitled to do that.

Tim Finchem, the PGA commissioner saying that he has the utmost respect and that he and others in the PGA are fans of Casey Martin, but they are sorry about the results of this case, but pleased on behalf of Casey Martin that this has been resolved.

Also, he said that he is pleased with the Supreme Court's decision in that from the PGA's point of view, this case decision, that applies solely to Casey Martin and would not therefore affect the PGA's rules for walking for other players on the tour. Tim Finchem down in Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida.

Further on this story, we're expecting coming up at 4:00 Eastern this afternoon Jack Nicklaus, of course, one of the legends of the game to talk about the Casey Martin case. He had been opposed to the use of the cart.

Casey Martin himself will speak at 5:50 Eastern this afternoon and then again tonight on "Larry King Live." He's Larry's guest on his hour at 9:00 Eastern.

Also expect to hear from us later in the CNN newsroom in this hour. We are expecting to get some more from New York the outcome of the terror bombing trial involving the U.S. embassies in Africa two years ago. Decision handed down in that case today involved hundreds of convictions against the four suspects, four defendants in that case. We expect to hear at 3:30 Eastern, less than a half an hour from now, from the U.S. attorney and the FBI on that particular case about their response to the outcome and the jury's decision. CNN will continue all this live coverage of the breaking news of the day. Now let's go check right in with TALKBACK LIVE.

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