by Jim Buzzerd
Those of you that have interest in professional golf are likely aware of the controversial Saudi Arabia backed golf tour that debuted in England last weekend. Greg Norman is the LIV CEO. LIV stands for the Roman numeral 54 which is the number of holes played in each LIV event. The tour will play eight events with a field of 48 players and there will be no cut. The last player in the field is guaranteed a paycheck of $120,000.
That amount is small change compared to some of the dollar amounts Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is paying out to attract top players. Multiple players have reportedly received nine figure deals just to compete on the tour. Reports say Phil Mickelson received a guarantee of $200 million and Dustin Johnson $150 million.
Who cares about winning with those guarantees?
There are a few layers to unpack about why the new tour is so controversial. The PGA tour has suspended 17 of its members, including Mickelson and Johnson, for joining the LIV. PGA commissioner Jay Monahan spoke on the suspensions with CBS’s Jim Nantz during last weekend’s RBC Open. “It’s been an unfortunate week that was created by some unfortunate decisions, those decisions being players choosing to violate our tournament regulations,” Monahan told Nantz.
“… It’s my job to protect, defend and celebrate our loyal PGA Tour members, our partners and our fans, and that’s exactly what I did. I don’t think it was a surprise to anybody, given how clear I had been about how we were going to handle this situation.”
As to whether players such as Johnson and fellow LIV Golf participant Mickelson could one day be allowed back onto the PGA Tour, the commissioner demurred Sunday. His tour could face legal challenges to its suspensions.
“We’ll see how things continue to develop,” he told Nantz, “as we go down the road here.”
If the concerns were only about the cash grab it would be difficult to blame a player for taking the money, except possibly the fact that most of those who we’re speaking of already have more money than they could ever spend.
Perhaps the bigger issue to most United States golf fans, as well as the general public, is Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record.
Consider this letter sent to the players by Terry Strada, a widow with three children, whose husband was killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Strada is the national chair of the 9/11 Families United coalition.
“Given Saudi Arabia’s role in the death of our loved ones and those injured on 9/11– your fellow Americans – we are angered that you are so willing to help the Saudis cover up this history in their request for ‘respectability,’” Strada wrote. “When you partner with the Saudis, you become complicit with their whitewash, and help give them the reputational cover they so desperately crave – and are willing to pay handsomely to manufacture.”
In the letter, Strada noted that Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.