Boy, it sure is a good thing LIV Golf is a “force for change and good.”
If it wasn’t, women in a Saudi Arabian orphanage could be chased down and beaten by security and police. Oh, wait. A video of that very thing happening went viral two weeks ago.
Well, if LIV wasn’t around, there’d be nothing to stop Saudi Arabia’s leaders from throwing a women’s rights activist in prison for more than three decades for tweeting her support for reforms. Shoot. That happened last month.
OK, but if LIV wasn’t here to inspire all this warm and fuzzy goodness, Saudi Arabia might go back on its promise to curtail use of the death penalty. What’s that? The kingdom executed almost twice as many people from January to June as it did all of last year? Never mind that, then.
This idea that players moving to LIV was anything but a money grab, and a big one at that, was always a farce. But as LIV begins the second half of its inaugural “season” – can you really call eight events a season? – on Friday, it has become more and more obvious just how morally bankrupt the whole charade is.
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has styled himself as a progressive. In reality, he’s a murderous dictator who won’t tolerate dissent, and he’s using LIV Golf to try and sportswash his atrocities.
Allowing women to drive, claiming he wants to modernize the kingdom, bankrolling a breakaway golf tour – they’re all meant to distract from what he does to those who don’t toe his line. And Phil Mickelson, Cam Smith, Dustin Johnson and the rest are willing to play his stooges so long as those seven-figure checks keep clearing.
“Golf is a force for good,” Bryson DeChambeau said in June. “As time goes on, hopefully people will see the good they’re doing. And what they’re trying to accomplish, rather than looking back at the bad that’s happened before. And moving on from that is important.”
“The bad that’s happened before.” That’s a nice way to describe having one of your critics killed and his body dismembered, as MBS did with Jamal Khashoggi.
It’s not as if MBS stopped there, though. Human rights violations and repression continue in the kingdom, all in the name of clamping down on dissent, maintaining a misogynistic society and further marginalizing the Shiite Muslim minority.
Salma al-Shehab’s great crime was to follow dissidents and retweet their posts. Her original six-year sentence was harsh enough. But when the researcher at Leeds University appealed, her punishment was increased to 34 years in prison, followed by a 34-year travel ban.
The women in the video who were chased down and beaten, including one woman who was dragged across the ground by her hair, had had the audacity to demand better conditions at the facility. These facilities, mind you, are where some women are sent when they disobey their families.
“As if what women suffer under the male guardianship system isn’t enough, here we see how young women who don’t have male guardians and live in orphanages can be violently attacked by the state for demanding their basic rights,” Lina al-Hathloul of ALQST, a nonprofit human rights organization, said on Twitter.
But hey, 24 players have already earned at least $1 million through the first four LIV events. AND they get to wear shorts!
The LIV players know they don’t have a good justification for taking MBS’ blood money. Aside from greed and a lack of a moral conscience, that is. So they resort to justifications that are as believable as Lefty’s aw-shucks persona.
One is that the format of their events is exciting and fresh. Which is true. If you’re a weekend duffer at a country club. Shotgun starts, 54-hole events and team competitions aren’t professional golf, no matter how hard these guys try to spin it.
If they want to compete, to truly test themselves and their games, they would do it against the best in the world. Not playing events where there’s a beer cart on the seventh hole.
The other lie is that LIV is better for their personal lives, with a less-demanding schedule. But starting next year, they’ll have to play 14 events, just one fewer than PGA Tour players need to keep up their memberships.
There is nothing noble about LIV Golf, and the only change it will foster is in the tax brackets of the guys playing it. But in choosing to work for a despot who is desperate to burnish his image they have forever trashed their own, and there’s no amount of money that can buy them back.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LIV golfers only care about themselves, their growing bank accounts