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PGA Tour’s Attack On Saudi-Backed LIV Golf Is Pure Hypocrisy, Political BS

(Washington Examiner)

PROFESSIONAL GOLF’S POLITICAL MELTDOWN. For more than a year, professional golf has been engulfed in a civil war over money and politics. The cause has been the creation of a new tour, funded by the vastly wealthy government of Saudi Arabia, to challenge the dominance — some would say the monopoly — of the PGA Tour.

The PGA Tour has reacted like any other business facing a possibly mortal threat. It has tried to strangle the new tour, known as LIV Golf, by threatening lifetime banishment for any PGA Tour player who defects to the new league. It has carried through on those punishments. It has offered tens of millions more in prize money and other incentives to PGA Tour players who remain loyal. It has tried in ways large and small to make those associated with the new league outcasts in the world of professional golf.


It’s just business. But then there is politics — and morality. The PGA Tour has not only used classic business self-defense methods, but it has also tried to turn the fight over LIV Golf into a moral and political crusade. Specifically, the PGA Tour, supported by a broad network of allies in the golf press, has focused on the Saudi murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the poor state of human rights in Saudi Arabia generally to make the case that LIV Golf, bankrolled by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, should be a moral outcast.

The charge is that LIV professionals are accepting “blood money” to play golf. Just google “blood money,” and you’ll see it used thousands of times in the golf debate. To add punch to the criticism, the families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks — most of the hijackers were Saudis — got involved in the effort, adding their gravitas to the effort to shame golfers competing in LIV events.

Perhaps the nadir of the debate came in June of last year when reporters pressed Phil Mickelson, the six-time major championship winner who joined LIV, about 9/11. Was Mickelson, as the families charged, “partners” with murderous Saudis who worked with Osama bin Laden to spread the evil, hate-filled Islamist ideology and kill thousands of his fellow Americans?

In a bizarre scene — it was a news conference before the U.S. Open championship — Mickelson said how terrible the 9/11 attacks were and that he had “deep, deep empathy” for families who lost loved ones on that day. It seems incredible to have to say, but just in case it is necessary: Phil Mickelson, professional golfer, had no role in the planning, execution, or support of the 9/11 attacks.

The core accusation from the PGA Tour side is that the Saudis are evil and no one should support a golf tour funded by that evil. The response should not be to defend the Saudis — they can indeed be “scary motherf***ers,” as Mickelson once memorably said. Rather, the fact is the Saudis are a big, rich, influential nation to which many countries, including the United States, have deep ties. To cite one example, while the LIV debate was tearing golf apart last year, President Joe Biden was photographed fist-bumping his good buddy Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The president of the U.S. certainly did not treat the Saudi leader as an outcast.

In addition, big U.S. companies do millions of dollars in business with the Saudis every year without becoming embroiled in the kind of moral debates heard in professional golf in recent months. As a matter of fact, many of the companies that currently sponsor tournaments on the PGA Tour do a lot of business with the Saudis. Not surprisingly, Tour officials don’t talk about “blood money” when they’re discussing companies that give millions to the PGA Tour.

“Why does the PGA Tour have 23 sponsors … doing $40-plus billion worth of business with Saudi Arabia?” LIV Golf chief Greg Norman asked last year. “Why is it OK for the sponsors? Why is it OK … that there’s a Saudi sponsor, Aramco, the largest sponsor of women’s golf in the world? Why is it OK for them? … The hypocrisy in all this — it’s so loud, it’s deafening.”

Now, if it is possible, the PGA Tour has turned the volume of hypocrisy up a bit more. In this way: The Tour runs a tournament known as the Byron Nelson, held every year in Dallas. It has long been sponsored by AT&T. (Yes, AT&T does business in Saudi Arabia, but put that aside for a moment.) Recently, AT&T decided to end its sponsorship of the Byron Nelson event, meaning the PGA Tour would have to find a new sponsor.

The Tour found that new sponsor in Raytheon, the giant defense contractor. According to a report in GolfWeek, a deal was all ready for signature when PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan abruptly pulled out of the agreement. Why? “The Tour had Raytheon Technologies … ready to sign on the dotted line, but … Monahan nixed the deal at the last minute because the company sells missiles to Saudi Arabia,” GolfWeekreported.

It’s true. Raytheon is selling missiles to Saudi Arabia. Specifically, it is selling 300 Patriot missiles at a price of $3.05 billion. It should be noted that the U.S. State Department approved the Raytheon sale to the Saudis. The sale went through after Biden’s fist-bump meeting with Salman. In other words, it was OK’d at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

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