Greg Norman’s Khashoggi remark recalls endless greed baked into LIV Golf
Blood money is still money, and that has always been the whole appeal of the Saudi government’s fledgling golf tour. Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson and their allies can talk about the PGA Tour’s restrictive policies and see who’s buying it, but the truth has been obvious from the start. They want to cash out. They don’t care how they do it and they get annoyed at people who do.
This is why they continue to dishonor themselves. That’s why Norman downplayed the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government on Wednesday, saying, “We’ve all made mistakes,” according to The Times of London. He said about a murder. But that has always been the attitude of Norman, Mickelson and their ilk. They can’t defend Saudi atrocities, so they try to act like the atrocities aren’t the issue. They want you to think it’s about golf.
All three putts are errors; Khashoggi’s murder was not. When Mickelson told author Alan Shipnuck that the Saudis are “scary mothers, we know they killed Khashoggi”, he quickly turned to what seems to be a more pressing issue for him: his desire to change the way the PGA Tour does business. Priorities, friends.
Mickelson is due to defend his PGA Championship next week, which would likely mean a pre-tournament press conference. Mickelson may well try to do what he’s already done: apologize for having spoken badly. But he didn’t speak badly. He told the truth. He sleeps with scary mothers because there’s a lot of money under the mattress.
For most players considering it, the Saudi-backed tour is a cash grab. There is no greater cause here. Norman, who runs the tour, can complain all he wants about how the PGA Tour unfairly restricts “independent contractors”. If you want to buy the argument of a man who thinks he can explain a murder as “mistake”, then go for it.
But then again, it’s the truth: the players are the PGA Tour. What’s bad for the Tour is bad for the players. And the PGA Tour never said players could not play for the Saudi-backed Tour. He just says they have to choose. It’s Tour law, and if it was such a bizarre position, then why are Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas and others supporting it? Are they also anti-golfers?
The Tour has major TV deals that fund the tournaments that make the players rich. It is reasonable to ask players who benefit from these contracts to play exclusively on the Tour unless they obtain a waiver.
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Even though there was a bigger cause here, and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan really needed the kick in the ass that Mickelson and Norman claim he needs, so they should find someone other than the one of the most brutal regimes on the planet to finance it. Think of all the billionaires who buy sports teams for fun. Many of them love golf. Don’t you think they would love to own the best golf course in the world if it made business sense?
The Saudis are happy to lose money because their interest is not earning. It’s sportwashing. That’s why they’re the ones funding it.
Norman and Mickelson want to do business with a murderous regime without anyone calling them. They want to harm the business of the PGA Tour while participating when it suits them. What they really do is show the sad and ugly side of professional golf. Players rarely respond to anyone. They’re not employed by teams, so they don’t have teammates to keep them in line or general managers who can trade them. Their coaches work directly for them. They don’t have a lot of reporters holding them accountable. And so for some (but not all) golfers, their moral compass is always pointed towards the nearest shore.
To the insanity fanatics pointing out that most sports leagues do business in China and other countries with poor human rights records: We can and should have a discussion about this, but this still isn’t the same as what LIV Golf is trying. There is a big difference between doing business in a country and do business for a country.
Norman and Mickelson are too preoccupied with self-interest to recognize the difference. The same goes for Sergio Garcia, who complained after a bad call at a PGA Tour event last week that he couldn’t “wait to get off this tour”.
Garcia’s persecution complex is not new. Every time the guy has to stop at a red light, he thinks the planner must hate him. But even for Garcia, it would be unbelievable: he hasn’t had enough time to search for his golf ball, so he will (presumably) seek a fair professional environment working for the Saudi government. This is the kind of logic you get from people who are so selfish and insensitive that they can’t tell the difference between an honest mistake and something much worse.
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