Editorial: Stable sports or sportswashing? PGA-LIV Golf deal bears thought

The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board

In this county where golf is king, it's a good thing for spectators and the economy if the turbulence rattling the sport's organizational underpinnings can be put to rest. Competition can be bruising, and in this case, it was competition over who manages the competition, that generated uncertainty over professional golf's future.

Going forward, the combined effort of PGA Tour and LIV Golf promises a steady run of events, team as well as individual championships, and a reliable boost to local businesses and nonprofits. To understand the local impact, realize that PGA's annual Honda Classic (now in the process of a name sponsor change) long has been one of the biggest public events in Palm Beach County — if not the biggest — drawing 200,000 visitors and, this past year, more than $7 million in contributions to charities that do so much for the community.

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To those pros who took umbrage at the criticism of their quickness to latch onto Saudi royal blood money, well, good. They deserved something less than the adulation to which they've grown accustomed. We haven't forgotten the starring role Saudi nationals played in Osama bin Laden's 9/11 massacre, with Florida serving unknowingly as their training ground. We can't dismiss Saudi Arabia's destruction of lives in neighboring Yemen. We can't let go of the murder by government agents of Saudi journalist for The Washington Post, Jamal Khashoggi, who went in to an Istanbul consulate for a marriage license and came out dismantled by a bone saw.

Oct 26, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Phil Mickelson during a press conference before the LIV Golf series at Trump National Doral. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The point has been made by some this week that Saudi Arabia's investment in golf and other sports businesses is merely part of a long-term effort to diversify an economy too dependent on oil. But at least as valid is the "sports-washing" argument that LIV and its trophy-hoisting hired hands, are employed to help cleanse the acrid taint of Saudi leaders' crimes against humanity.

Still, those of us smug in our criticism need to recognize our own role as enablers, too. If we want to exert pressure on behalf of humanity, and moderate the climate while we're at it, here's one more reason to wean ourselves off oil. Then we'll have something to say in the matter. Until then, we can talk all we want but money's talking louder.

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