Is there an entity in the world of sports more single-mindedly committed to the protection of its brand than Augusta National Golf Club?
ANGC, if you’ll recall, filed a federal lawsuit in August to halt Green Jacket Auctions (you know that name rankles the club to no end) from auctioning a trio of green jackets. One of the famed garments purportedly belonged to Byron Nelson, one to a current member, and one to a former member of the iconic club.
Now, per a report from The Augusta Chronicle, the jackets are back in the club’s possession until the case is resolved
U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall signed an order Friday saying in part
“…The parties shall not construe the release and transfer of these items as anything other than an alteration of its previous preservation order. The court has not yet made any determinations regarding the disputed issues in this case.”
In August, Augusta maintained the items were either stolen or fakes. The club says it has never sold green jackets at any point in its history, and members are likewise prohibited from doing so.
Not surprisingly, Green Jacket Auctions doesn’t see things the same way, indicating it obtained the jackets legally through third parties who themselves rightfully owned the garments.
Ryan Carey, co-founder of Green Jacket Auctions, told Golf Digest.
“Augusta National likes to claim things are ‘stolen’ when what they really mean is they believe Augusta National owns every green jacket ever produced regardless of who currently owns or possesses the jackets.”
The famed green garments are only worn by members during the Masters, and only the reigning Masters champion is permitted to take his jacket from the premises.
Judge Hall granted a temporary injunction in August, which stopped the auction pending the determination of ownership.
Should members own their jackets? Or should ANGC effectively rent them out to the membership but retain ownership?
It’s difficult to make the case that the most famous garments in sports appearing on the auction block builds the Masters brand in a positive way. Indeed, for the club, and for many Masters fans, the green jackets are akin to holy relics housed in the sanctuary of the club. For many, this may seem extreme, but it’s all part of the dense web of Masters mythology.
From an ownership standpoint, based on this latest development, it’s also difficult to think the court ANGC won’t determine to be the rightful owner of genuine green jackets.
In other words, the days of green jacket auctions at Green Jacket Auctions may be over.