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The new Saudi deal for golf raises concerns regarding its political, business, and athletic implications.


Jun 7, 2023

The PGA Tour has announced a partnership with Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund, which is the financier of the breakaway circuit, LIV Golf. The deal brings PGA Tour and LIV Golf back together and will also incorporate the DP World Tour, making it the leading global golf platform. While this deal is great for the sport’s fans, as it ends the split between the two rival tours, for some, it presents uncomfortable moral issues. This is because the PGA Tour now rests atop a pile of money put up by the regime of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who Washington has frequently condemned for infringing women’s rights and the US blamed for the murdering and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, for instance, is under fire, and critics accuse him of hypocrisy because he blasted golfers who defected to LIV. He also played the 9/11 card last year at the same event, asking players that had left or would consider leaving whether they had ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour. Now, Monahan is the effective supremo of global golf, aided by a gusher of Saudi cash. Tuesday’s LIV/PGA Tour agreement lays bare questions of morality so starkly because of the way golf has sold itself. In a sport where players call penalties on themselves, and commentators idolize top players in whispered tones as paragons of gentlemanly conduct, patriotism and family values, the origin of the sport’s new financial lifeline is glaring.

The PGA Tour and Saudi partnership may be the most prominent example yet of the phenomenon known as sports washing, whereby an authoritarian nation seeking to buff up its image woos the world’s top sporting stars. China was accused of such an agenda with its 2008 and 2022 Summer and Winter Olympics, where attempts at political activism largely fizzled under its repressive rule. The Qatar World Cup last year was another example of a nation that used its financial muscle to present a new image to the world. Various controversies during the tournament over LGBTQ rights and the plight of workers who built the stadiums undercut global governing body FIFA’s pretensions to inclusion. The Saudis, Qataris and others are using their oil wealth to create tourism, entertainment and sporting legacies to sustain them when their reserves of carbon energy are depleted.

By Editor

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