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What does an umpire wear under his robe?



Published: Wed, May 30, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Every playing field in the United States just got nine new officials, and they're all wearing robes.

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that it knows better than the PGA Tour as to what's fair and unfair on a golf course, ruling that disabled golfer Casey Martin has a legal right to ride rather than walk the course.

In an exquisite example of a court micro-managing an arena in which it has little business, the justices pointed out that in their view the rule requiring players to walk because fatigue is a part of the game doesn't apply in Martin's case because he gets just as tired riding in a golf cart as most players do walking.

Bigger step: But it is clear that those who supported Martin's suit against the PGA have no intention of making such fine distinctions.

Martha Walters, one of Martin's lawyers, called the ruling important "to all people in sports, high school kids, kids at all levels," who will be able to demand that their disabilities be accommodated under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Only time will tell what that means. If a court can find that walking the golf course is not a part of professional golf, how will athletic associations, athletic directors, coaches and umpires or referees begin to guess how far they have to go to accommodate one player's demands while being fair to the rest?

The PGA has said that it bears no ill will toward Casey Martin and wishes him well. Its concern is how it will interpret future, inevitable requests. Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association might want to start preparing its response for when the first vertically challenged player shows up for a tryout wearing stilts.




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