Greg Norman plays down journalist murder: ‘We’ve all made mistakes’
Two-time major champion Greg Norman has said the new Saudi-backed golf league of which he is CEO is not trying to “sportswash” human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.
Norman – chief executive of the LIV Golf Invitational, funded primarily by the Saudi Public Investment Fund – appeared to play down the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a media day on Wednesday. The LIV Golf Invitational is set to have its inaugural event next month at the Centurion Golf Club outside London.
“Everyone recognized it, right?” Norman said, according to London newspaper The Times. “It’s been talked about, from what I’ve read, from what you’ve reported. Take ownership, whatever it is. Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn of these errors and how you can fix them in the future.
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Norman, 67, shared similar comments in an interview with Sky Sports when asked about Khashoggi and other human rights abuses by the Saudi government, including the mass execution of 81 people in March.
“It’s reprehensible what happened with Khashoggi. Admit it, talk about it,” he said. “I’m not going to get into politics, I don’t know what the Saudi government is doing. I don’t want to get into that. Every country has a cross to bear.”
Norman, who won the British Open in 1986 and 1993, said LIV golf was not political and was not associated with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.
“They are not my bosses. We are independent. I don’t answer to Saudi Arabia. I don’t answer to MBS (Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud),” he said. “I answer to my board, and MBS is not on that. It’s as simple as that.”
Norman, however, said Saudi Arabia was undergoing “a cultural shift” thanks to golf.
“The generation of kids that I see on the driving range today, they don’t want that stigma to carry over through the generations and their kids,” he said. “They want to change this culture and they change it. And you know how they do it? Golf.”
Norman’s comments come after the PGA Tour denied its members permission to participate in the Saudi-funded golf tournament in London next month. Refusals were sent to players who had requested permission late Tuesday afternoon.
The PGA Tour was expected to grant waivers for the LIV Golf Invitational event near London due to a precedent allowing players limited outings for overseas events. (All members are required to request conflicting event permission to participate in non-Tour events.)
However, the decision is believed to be based on the belief that the UK event is indeed part of a rival series. LIV Golf has announced an eight-tournament schedule with plans for more to come.
The first LIV Golf Invitational is scheduled for June 9-11 at Centurion Golf Club outside London, with a field of 48 players competing for a $20 million purse over 54 holes. The winner receives $4 million – golf’s richest prize to date – and the last place finisher receives $120,000.
Contributor: The Associated Press; Eamon Lynch, Golfweek
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