Is it a good deal to sell out your personal integrity for cash from notorious scoundrels?
Depends on your sellout price, chortle some 48 ethically stunted professional golfers who’ve peddled both their honor and honesty to the murderous moneyed monarchs who rule Saudi Arabia. The golfers, who are already millionaires, rushed to grab money thrown at their feet by the royal kingdom, which oddly thinks it can launder its public image by sponsoring a money-soaked global golf tour. Of course, a golf tournament needs golfers, but the Saudis had none, so they simply bought some. First, former stars Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman signed away their integrity to join, taking at least $200 million apiece. Then Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau took $150 million each from Team Saudi, and the likes of Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia quickly scrambled to get theirs.
Worse than the golfers’ unsightly money grubbing, however, is their insufferable dishonesty, trying to whitewash their taking of what is literally blood money. Mickelson faked moral outrage at the Kingdom’s rulers, calling them “less than savory individuals” and piously proclaiming that he did not condone “human rights violations.” But he certainly has condoned (and cashed) the checks written to him by the violators.
Norman, the former pro who led recruitment of golfer talent for the Saudis, offered the most pathetic moral excuse for selling out. Asked how he could link arms with a potentate so barbarous as to have had a critic of the regime murdered and chopped into pieces, Norman said: “Look, we’ve all made mistakes.”
There’s a word that describes what these golfing multimillionaires are doing: “Disgusting.”
The good news is that most pros — including bigger-name stars like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas — have some values that they refuse to trade for dollars.
This spring, that small group of professional golfers — led by Norman and Mickelson — decided to turn the game that has made them fabulously rich into an unsporting game of SleazeBall.
They say they want to set up an independent series of global tournaments, called LIV, to compete with the PGA, the Professional Golfers Association. Fine — pro sports should be about top-quality, honest competition. But there’s the rub: LIV is not honest, not a sporting competition, and not even about golf — it is entirely about money. Indeed, callous greed.
The LIV scam is funded by the brutish family of petro-royals who ruthlessly rule Saudi Arabia and have made the oil-rich regime a global pariah. Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince who is the mastermind behind this multibillion-dollar golfing scheme, is the same fellow who ordered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi murdered in 2018. But killing wasn’t enough. The prince had Khashoggi cut into small pieces, packed in suitcases and tossed away. Now his golf gambit is a blatant case of “sportswashing” — he is buying the marquee names of a few dozen golfers for a sports spectacle, hoping to distract attention from his government’s depravity. Adolf Hitler tried this by staging the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, but it didn’t wash.
Likewise, the Saudi golf tour won’t wash off the regime’s indelible ugliness.