Ken ReedThe things people will do for money …

The way Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and other professional golfers tap dance while trying to come up with reasons to justify their move to the new LIV Tour is embarrassing.

The LIV Tour has nothing to do with growing the game of golf, using golf to positively impact the world or any of the other bogus reasons these guys try to hoist on the media and public. It’s about M-O-N-E-Y, plain and simple.

But none of these guys tossing morals aside to chase greenbacks will be honest and come out and say that.

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Let’s be clear: doing something for money isn’t inherently evil. But taking money from evil people for doing something is. The money Norman, Mickelson, Johnson and McDowell are taking is tainted with blood.

The LIV Tour is funded by the Public Investment Fund, a public-relations arm of the government of Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials are using the LIV Tour as a ‘sportswashing’ vehicle in an attempt to improve Saudi Arabia’s image in the face of numerous human rights atrocities perpetrated by Saudi government officials.

The list of human rights abuses by Saudi government leaders is long, including the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to U.S. intelligence services, Khashoggi was murdered on the orders of crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmon, who heads the Public Investment Fund, which is backing the LIV Tour.

When recently asked about the Khashoggi murder, Norman, the new tour’s chief executive, incredibly said, “Look, we’ve all made mistakes. …” Well, murder is certainly a doozy of a mistake, isn’t it Greg?

Mickelson says he doesn’t condone human rights violations and that he’s aware of the Khashoggi murder and thinks it was terrible. But he has no trouble taking money from the perpetrators. Mickelson says LIV Golf will do a lot of good for the game, as if helping golf could somehow neutralize all the evil the Saudis’ have done to humanity.

McDowell, another golf major winner who has decided to get in bed with the Saudis, says, “I really feel like golf is a force of good in the world – I just try to be a great role model for kids.”

Are you kidding me? A role model for kids by signing up to take money from a government that murders journalists and others? (Eighty-one men were executed by the Saudi kingdom in March.)

The Saudis also have a history of oppressing women, LGBTQ individuals and migrant workers.

Hey Graeme, Phil, Dustin and Greg, here’s what the LIV Tour really is: a sports-based PR tool for a reprehensible government that seeks to polish its international image by washing over a series of human rights abuses. In other words, it’s sportswashing.

In effect, Norman, Mickelson, Johnson, McDowell and the other golfers who have signed up for the LIV Tour are working for the Saudi crown prince, the mastermind of the Khashoggi murder, in this golf scheme.

Mickelson has called the PGA Tour greedy. Well, isn’t that just the richest of rich comments by good ol’ Phil? This guy became a multimillionaire thanks to the PGA Tour and the resulting endorsement opportunities. Mickelson reportedly has an annual income of US$40.8 million. He’s second in all-time PGA Tour earnings at US$92 million-plus. Forbes estimates his career earnings from endorsements at approximately US$750 million. The website golfnetworth.com estimates his net worth at US$450 million.

And yet, Mickelson is fine chasing tainted LIV Tour money. He’s fine with damaging the tour that made him a wealthy man. And he’s apparently fine with permanently damaging his image by partnering with serial human rights abusers. Bottom line: Mickelson seems okay being a puppet of bin Salmon in this blatant attempt to try to golf away the stink from Saudi human rights atrocities.

This is simply a classic case of greed-at-all-costs. Nothing more.

Role models?

Please. Mickelson, Norman, Johnson, McDowell and the other golfers who are aligning with the Saudi golf tour should be ashamed of themselves.

Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans (leagueoffans.org), a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports. For interview requests, click here.


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