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Blumenthal Has Some Questions for the PGA

This is our second golf item in as many weeks. That's roughly two more than we'd really prefer to write, but we go where the news takes us.

As we noted in the previous item about the LIV Golf-PGA merger, the Saudis have very clearly purchased themselves an "in" into American culture. Men's golf does not reach all Americans, or even most of them, but it does reach a demographic that is overwhelmingly white, conservative, male and well-to-do. How the Saudis might leverage that demo, we don't know, but there must be a plan there.

It turns out we are not the only ones who think this way. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) took a sniff, sniff of the deal, and he definitely does not like the odor emanating from the whole thing. So, he has written a letter to the PGA and a letter to LIV Golf demanding some answers. The Senator, for example, declares:

[Public Investment Fund] is an investment fund of more than $700 billion created by the Saudi government and run by a board that makes investment decisions under "the chairmanship and guidance" of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the effective Saudi leader. PGA Tour's agreement with PIF regarding LIV Golf raises concerns about the Saudi government's role in influencing this effort and the risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over a cherished American institution. PIF has announced that it intends to use investments in sports to further the Saudi government's strategic objectives. It established LIV Golf Investments in 2021 to serve this goal. Critics have cast such Saudi investments in sports as a means of "sportswashing"—an attempt to soften the country's image around the world—given Saudi Arabia's deeply disturbing human rights record at home and abroad. In fact, prior to this agreement, PGA Tour was one of the loudest critics of LIV Golf's affiliation with Saudi Arabia.

The letters are only three pages, but they have, respectively 12 and 10 footnotes. Blumenthal has clearly done his homework.

There is talk that the federal government might step in and prohibit the merger. Time will tell if that happens. Meanwhile, the Senator is clearly ready to train a pretty big microscope on the Saudis, and exactly what they are up to. If it really is just "sportswashing," well, it's not going well. Every story about the merger has contained references to Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudis' undemocratic regime, and the history of their human rights abuses. That's not exactly the kind of PR that sportswashing is supposed to produce. (Z)

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