LIV Golf, the first serious challenge to the PGA’s monopoly on professional golf, has drawn the media’s ire for its Saudi investors. The firestorm has involved the same feigned hysteria the American public endures in each news cycle. If you’re a fan of golf, or any other sport for that matter, you’ve long been forced to drink from ESPN’s fire hydrant of panic.
According to our moral betters in the media, LIV Golf is an unacceptable intrusion by tyrannical Saudi princes into the upright, straight-backed world of professional golf. The great golfing tradition, represented by titans of the game like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Condi Rice, is under existential threat.
Protests broke out almost immediately after the new tour’s launch in June. Some protests, like those of the families of 9/11 victims, struck a chord. It’s hard not to feel for the folks watching the Saudis, state sponsors of terror, rake in cash off the backs of some of the world's most talented golfers. Their outrage may be misplaced, though. With President Biden giving the “bro” treatment to MBS and most Fortune 500 companies investing in the House of Saud, is golf really the problem?
The hubbub surrounding LIV Golf is similar to what I described in my piece on Roman Abramovich's corruption and Boris Johnson’s lust to punish foreign, sports-mogul oligarchs from whom the British government previously profited. We all know the corrupt bargain professional sports made: years ago, professional sports leagues sold out to foreign capital years, and in so doing, sold their right to lecture the public.
In the case of golf, golf legend and apparel mogul Greg Norman pointedly highlighted the PGA’s hypocrisy in a recent interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
"The PGA tour, I think, has about 27 sponsors who do 40-plus billion dollars worth of annual business on an annual basis in Saudi Arabia," Norman said. "Why doesn’t the PGA tour call the CEOs [of these businesses] saying that we can’t do business with you because you are doing business with Saudi Arabia?”
Point taken. It does seem absurd that the PGA would defame golfers it previously promoted over alleged human-rights concerns, especially given that they themselves are keenly invested in Saudi Arabia via the sponsors that sustain their business model. Moreover, Norman could have added that his home in Australia is routinely threatened by another major benefactor of the PGA: the Chinese Communist Party.
Nike, Callaway, Titleist, Mercedes, and every other long-time sponsor of professional golfers and the PGA do billions of dollars of business with the Chinese regime. Callaway went as far as dropping sponsorships for players who chose to play on the LIV Tour, despite the fact that 60 percent of their golf clubs are made in China. The nausea-inducing links between America’s social-justice-crazy corporations and China have been well covered, but are worth noting anytime their public-relations and human-resources departments start issuing edicts.
This all calls to question what the PGA’s panic is really about: money. LIV Golf is breaking the tired “traditions” the PGA clings onto between its social-justice press releases. LIV Golf is focused on creating a better fan experience, using team play, and producing faster rounds. LIV simply offers an alternative fan experience for those of us who don’t have entire weekends to dedicate to watching whispering preachers evaluate tedious rounds of elimination. It’s Happy Gilmore replacing Shooter McGavin. We’d all rather watch Happy Gilmore, and the PGA knows it.
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That’s why this well-timed “current thing” to slander the LIV defectors has gained so much steam. The PGA, which has presided over a multi-decade drop in golf’s popularity, is under threat. Broadcasters, apparel companies, sports-equipment makers, and sponsors have circled the wagons to defend their margins.
Another wrinkle, less covered but nonetheless explosive in the minds of our chattering class, is the location of LIV’s tour. The latest event, held at Donald Trump’s Bedminster Club in New Jersey, was a raucous gathering. Throngs of rebels in Dad hats lined the course chanting “Let’s Go Brandon” while Trump, Tucker Carlson, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Trump’s family pumped their fists and laughed. The Republican Party desperately wished to return to the country club, but I’m not sure this is what they meant. Regardless, these new country club Republicans didn’t hold back. Why should they? The left already has a golf tour. Why should these fans not have one for themselves?
Sports are a racket. They have been since Ty Cobb and will be when the House of Saud joins its predecessors in the sands of time. LIV Golf exposes the sports establishment for what they are: capitalists and racketeers. It provides the Saudis an opportunity to throw their weight around with the other regimes in sport. It’s an opportunity for Phil Mickelson to pay off his gambling debts. It’s a chance for Donald Trump to get some press. Pretending that professional sports are anything more than a racket (Pete Rose is still banned from baseball even as casinos operate inside MLB stadiums) has always been what we young guys call a “cope”. Fans lost reverence for the leagues years ago. Fans want sports without the pretense and without the lectures. If that means another sports conglomerate owned by the Saudis, so be it. We’ve seen it before. Long LIV the game of golf.