Tuesday, March 5, 2024 -
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The PGA Tour is dead. Long live LIV Golf?

What are you willing to sell your soul for?

The world is a complicated and sometimes ugly place. Cold alliances must sometimes be forged when common goals are shared.

That’s how the Abraham Accords came about — though they have since developed into genuinely warm relations. Some Gulf states, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain specifically, were concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions in the region, so their enemy’s enemy became their friend, as the adage goes.

Saudi Arabia could have been next. Instead, the Biden Administration’s inexplicable cowardice on Iran has left a vacuum that China is happily filling, leading to a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, legitimizing the extremist government of an emerging nuclear state that makes no secret of its ambition to destroy Israel. (An aside: Earlier this month Iran unveiled a marketing campaign boasting of its new hypersonic missile, the poster stating in Hebrew that the missile could reach Tel Aviv in 400 seconds.

Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, producers of the Iron Dome and David’s Sling, has announced it is building “Sky Sonic,” a defense against hypersonic missiles.)

None of these Gulf countries are liberal democracies, unlike Israel. Some of the countries Israel has reached out to might be described as benevolent dictatorships. Others, such as Saudi Arabia, directed a brutal, murderous attack on a Washington Post journalist, among many other deep misdeeds such as, important to this readership, vilifying Jews in popular media and school textbooks.

Yet, Israel has sought rapprochement with Saudi Arabia because Israel’s security trumps concerns about Saudi Arabia’s very troubling human rights record.

Israel’s approach is one of realpolitik, where practical considerations must be privileged above ideology. Indeed, sometimes one must sell one’s soul. For security, yes. But for sheer entertainment? Count us among those who are disgusted by the PGA Tour’s about face, trashing the values it touted so highly last year when it urged golfers not to join Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf tour. At that time, the PGA commissioner, Jay Monahan, went so far as to invoke the September 11 attacks, citing the Saudi origin of 15 of the hijackers. It seems that in the span of one year, the value of the lives lost on September 11 dropped to zero as Monahan caved in to the enticement of Saudi cash.

Purchasing sports franchises is a new favorite of Saudi Arabia and other even less benevolent dictatorships such as China. It all began with Roman Abramovich’s purchase of the British soccer team Chelsea FC in 2003. Now, billionaires, foreign investors and even foreign countries, such as Saudi Arabia through its Public Investment Fund, see the acquisition of a Western sports franchise as a largely risk-free investment — and not only that, buta way of legitimizing itself. “Sportswashing.” The purchaser cleans away a dirty human rights record.

The purchase by a foreign power of another country’s cultural icon — be it the English Premier League champion Manchester City, currently owned by an Emirati sheik, or now the PGA Tour, acquired by Saudi LIV Golf — is a geopolitical power move. It is an assertion of dominance and growing influence.

The PGA Tour is no more. Once a lauded nonprofit, its merger with LIV Golf (and PGA European Tour) is not one of equal partners. It will be a for-profit owned by the Saudi PIF. It is the Saudis’ show now.

What of the golfers who stuck by the PGA Tour, turning down lucrative offers to stand on principle? They have been made fools of by Commissioner Monahan. While this deal may be good for the profit and loss statement, the bad blood incurred by Monahan’s U-turn is sure to increase in its toxicity and, we have no doubt, infiltrate the new combined tour.

We understand that the PGA Tour was in difficult financial straits, but despite our love of sports and of golf in particular, some things are not worth the price. Even if it means the continuation of a beloved sport that supports jobs and infrastructure, entertainment should not be valued so deeply as to sell one’s soul for it.

For security — yes. For entertainment — absolutely not.

Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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