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Who "Owns" the Association?

During the February 1933 meeting of the Executive Committee, an extensive debate took place over authority of sections versus that of the National Association.  The Eastern section had proposed an amendment to its constitution which would give the section the right to discipline players and members.  Other sectional delegates agreed that the USLTA "should stay out of these small laundries."  The final clause in the amendment proposed that the section "have the power to suspend, expel or disbar any club or player under its jurisdiction who shall act in a manner contrary to the purpose of the Association or the welfare of the game."  Holcomb Ward, president of Eastern and also on the USLTA executive committee, defended his section’s position.  There was no disagreement with Ward’s long-standing hard-line stance on amateurism, which seemed the likely reason for the proposal, but Louis Carruthers, Julian Myrick, and other USLTA leaders, insisted that the Association’s bylaws specifically empowered its executive committee to determine amateur status and eligibility – calling it a "tribunal" to emphasize its full and final authority.1 
When someone suggested that the situation was analogous to the relationship between the U.S. federal government and the states, President Carruthers went well beyond the specific case to present an overview of the Association’s governance structure and history.  He pointed out that the accepted practice of "chartering" sections once they got USLTA approval for their constitutions and bylaws meant that Eastern’s had been approved without such a grant of authority. Then came his declaration of governing principles: "In the first place the powers and rights of a Sectional Association which is a member of the National Association are entirely different from those of the states in the Union.  Far be it from me to be drawn into an argument on states’ rights here but the states had original powers.  The Federal Government had but what powers the states granted it.  The very opposite is true with respect to the National Association.  The original organization was the National Association.  The Sectional Associations have but those  powers which have been granted to than by the National Association."2 
Resolution of the details was unimportant – the USLTA gave approval for the Eastern proposal conditioned on striking "disbar" from the wording.  Much more significantly, no one at the meeting challenged the political  philosophy set out by Carruthers.  The National Association created and owned the sections, not vice-versa – at least in 1933.


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