PGA Tour vs LIV Golf

Like many of you out there I love golf. For those already not aware, there has been a controversy brewing for several months pertaining to the Saudi financed new LIV golf series that is slated to hold its first tournament in London next week. The tour is publicly spearheaded by Aussie Greg Norman. It consists of small fields and extreme amounts of money, some $50 million per tournament I believe. There are also unique team formats that are supposed to be in play. Some more information below.

[Report: PGA commissioner draws line in the sand on LIV restricted-content](Report: PGA commissioner draws line in the sand on LIV restricted-content)

There is considerable controversy involved as the PGA tour has refused to release any of its members to compete on this tour. Threats of severe sanctions, including a lifetime ban on any player entering an LIV tournament, have been threatened. This obviously raises questions of unfair business practices, if not an outright monopoly.

There has also been much criticism that the new tour is Saudi backed, with human rights abuses by America’s long time ally frequently being cited. It was in relation to this that Phil Mickelson made his ill advised comments a few months ago, resulting in him taking a self inflicted Tiger like hiatus from competitive golf.

I am not taking a firm position on any of this as there are valid arguments on both sides. I am appalled by Saudi behaviour. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to bother sports like soccer or F1 or even the European golf tour.

I am also not a fan of the PGA’s good old boy monopolistic and dictatorial policies. If you are not aware, the current World Golf events and essentially the ranking system and Fed Ex Cup was the brain child of Greg Norman in the 1980’s. The powers that be of the PGA tour at the time told him to take a hike and threatened him with sanctions before a short time later they stole his ideas and adopted them as their own. He received no credit or compensation and the Tour continues to profit from his ideas to this day.

This is very big news internationally and has the potential for a financial bloodbath in the world of golf. And golf is very big money around the world, being dwarfed perhaps only by soccer, although I am not sure about that. Most of the richest athletes in the world are golfers, including the richest athlete ever, Arnold Palmer (unfortunately now dead). Golf mints more millionaires annually than any other sport, although the extremely rich make more money from endorsements and the business opportunities the sport provides than they actually earn playing.

Today it was announced that there is a Canadian connection as surprisingly several top players, some sponsored by RBC, have opted to play the LIV tournament in London next week over the RBC Canadian Open. RBC has cancelled the long standing endorsement contracts of Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell and UPS has cancelled their contract with Lee Westwood as a result of their intention to play in London next week. More below.

[RBC ends sponsorship relationship with Johnson restricted-content](RBC ends sponsorship relationship with Johnson restricted-content)

Players have been speaking out and taking sides, to some extent. This has the potential to change the professional golf landscape as we know it.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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if I was a golfer. I'd play in the PGA with a clear conscience rather than take in blood money

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That's because it's not about human rights it's about $$$ for the PGA facing a competitive threat.

They throw out this legitimate criticism, but of course we don't expect our own golf media to scrutinize the PGA sponsors now do we!?

The PGA ought to tread more lightly here or they WILL invite scrutiny much as did the NBA in 2019 with regards to the full nature of its involvement in China once the de facto Commissioner Lebron decided to bring it up and play well out of his lane on the court and in life for that matter.

The brand damage to the NBA has been notable since in the US amongst the more casual fans who did watch the playoffs at the very least, but they are making up much of it up abroad. The public relations campaign via the commissioner for a week afterwards on both ESPN and TNT was alarmingly notable as was the sucking up by any of them in the media wanting to keep their jobs.

The entire matter, given the timing in 2019, was overshadowed and greatly forgotten due to the pandemic as well though.

Of course belying all this matter since 2014 in the Middle East is also the matter of the World Cup in Qatar, and gee, I wonder if any of its sponsors, or affiliates or partly-owned firms by sponsors, and those of the PGA are common hmmmmm!?

Those who throw stones sure better not be living in glass houses for starters.

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Sidebar - In the spring of 2017, though not a golf fan, I remember turning on the TV on a Saturday and seeing a tournament played in Mexico.

Now given the timing in that year and recently very heated political rhetoric between the leadership of both countries with my opinion not favouring my own on that matter, you would think such would have been a factor in the coverage and exposure of the sponsoring firms to some degree especially if tied to contracts of the US Government.

Nope. The rich played golf and got richer as usual as it was clear to me that the supposed "heated rhetoric" we were being told was at hand was yet another media creature with little substance beyond the legitimate outrage.

Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, Formula 1 took Aramco's money with so many other examples around the globe many times over years ago before this sort of matter and others have arisen.

This is the playing field of the elite. The rules are different for them. And you and I, to Carlin's point long ago, are not in the club or even at the table for any true discussion.

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In most cases you would be okay, but certainly I would be checking on the human rights records of the PGA sponsors, and all affiliates or partly-owned operations globally, as well now given the PGA brought up the matter though that's certainly what was there all along before.

In my view as a business or organization, you don't get to throw out even legitimate accusations without being examined for your own standing.

That's also the case in any legitimate court where your character can be entered as evidence and can be called into question even as much as any testimony or argument made.

There is a possibility that golfers that play in LIV could be suspended or their sponsorship revoked. Dustin Johnson's sponsor Royal Bank of Canada(RBC) also sponsored the Canadian Open and they dropped him as their spokesperson when he jumped to play the LIV event in London. To me it isn't worth the trouble.

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I think that without crowds on the golf course and fans in the stands a lot of pro sports athletes started getting a truer picture of the money some pro sports are really bringing in.
That and payouts for tournaments haven't really changed for quite a while. Think about the Masters for instance. Tickets are not cheap for spectators. They sell how many tickets for four days? Add that part up and they are already in the black, and that doesn't even factor in TV money, and how much Mercedes pays to be lone sponsor, and Rolex, and.....
Probably gonna be a bit of a sideshow but I think it's as much players saying it's time for prize money to be adjusted......

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Yes, I'm not going to make any moral or ethical judgement on what PGA players should or shouldn't do. I'm not in their shoes at all, I have no idea about their personal lives etc. As both of you allude to, one takes a behaviour or an action, who you lay in bed with sort of thing, and it may have consequences, we all make choices in life about our career paths, sometimes it works out for the best, sometimes not. People from Canada from all sorts of professions go and work in Saudi for more money, happens all the time, that is well known ie:

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Not sure what Dustin will earn if he plays in all of the LIV events but I’m pretty sure it will dwarf his sponsorship money.

It will get real interesting when the PGA hands out its sanctions. They have clearly threatened a lifetime ban, which is heavy handed by any measure and surely would be overturned by any court that understands the phrase “restraint of trade”. Even Rory McIlroy, an outspoken supporter of the PGA Tour has expressed a desire for leniency. One of his best buds McDowell is playing LIV.

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On another note, Jack Nicklaus has been subject to some criticism. He was offered $100 million to be an ambassador for LIV. He ultimately turned it down but appeared to be seriously considering it and consequently was sued by his own company. Jack doesn’t have any problems taking Saudi money as he is currently building them a golf course. He used this as the basis for having a “courtesy” meeting with the LIV powers that be. As Aerial pointed out above, many people from many walks of life take Saudi money despite their human rights record. The plot thickens.

https://www.si.com/golf/news/jack-nicklaus-confirms-courtesy-meeting-with-liv-golf-but-zero-interest

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Interesting, very interesting.

100% agree

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Tell me why again why athletes should boycott this area of the world? Is it because their politics are worse than West politics? Their god is not as good as the US god? Their murders and executions are worse.? They make women dreas differently? Why exactly again?

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Certain elements in Saudi Arabia have long been linked to terrorist funding (including 911) and the most obvious, their de facto leader sanctioned a hit squad to enter a foreign country, entice Jamal Khashoggi to visit the Saudi consulate, murder him and dismember his body, because he dared write critical articles/reports/editorials ... but they have lots and lots of oil, so for many it is

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Yup and US have not committed murders off shore and have not committed terrorist killings abroad. And have a pristine record on the homeland. Right got it.

God bless America and the NRA

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But I don't fully understand the term "blood money" as people seem to like to use this term. Money is money and as long as this is legal ie not drug cartel money sort of thing, well I don't see a real moral dilemma here at all. Is a nurse going to Saudi for more money and a chance to see the world and have better vacations earning "blood money"? I hope no one would even see it that way, in the least. And if you do see this as "blood money", I don't get it. There is so much corruption in the Western World it's not funny, even within governments and government support that goes unnoticed. Again, as I say, this isn't drug cartel sort of crap.

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All for sure such is the case for overwhelmingly most fans, but analogous to Commissioner Lebron, the PGA throwing big stones like that attracts a whole lot of scrutiny including the most undesired.

Sponsors don't like scrutiny be it of merit or not.

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For sure - consider the high presence of westerners in other areas of the Middle East with plenty on their record such as Qatar and UAE as well.

There are plenty from the West who have ventured there to prosper with a better deal whom some might criticize, but it's not as if those same critics have squeaky-clean digs down here in Washington DC, Manhattan, Southern California, South Florida, Greater Boston, et cetera.

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After reading various posts and thinking about it, I am clearly on the side of the players who wish to play the LIV “tour”. They have every right to go and it is ridiculous that the PGA plans on sanctioning them and no less than fascist that they are threatening a lifetime ban.

The PGA tour must grant a player a release if they wish to play in a tournament not on the PGA tour. They routinely do so. In this case they didn’t grant any. That was a mistake, in my opinion. They should have granted the releases requested instead of instigating the battle that is sure to come, probably complete with litigation. Their position reeks of weakness and has created a standoff for no reason. Had they granted the releases it is quite probable that everything would have blown over.

While I support the player’s right to play LIV, I can’t see it generating much excitement. The fields are weak compared to PGA tournaments. Their first tournament is in England and will be on British Open time. I might have a look out of curiosity but I don’t see myself following it very closely or even caring.

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I also support you and the posts pointing out that many other westerners work in or earn income from Saudi Arabia. Why should these players be treated any differently? Should everyone be forbidden from dealing with them? Let’s not forget that the US government, living in a glass house to be sure, considers them an ally so they are willing to overlook their human rights abuses, just as they do for China. The former US leader didn’t even bat an eye over the Khashogi murder, much less criticize them. Should we be gutting our homes and getting rid of all Chinese made goods? Certainly Saudis aren’t any worse than China or Russia and they didn’t invade the Ukraine.

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