Golfers go to play golf | The nation


The word “sportswashing” has been used so often by critics of the international business of athletics that it has almost become a cliché. For the uninitiated, this is when a PR-friendly sporting event is used by a nation, usually one run by a murderous and authoritarian leadership, as a propaganda tool to stir up good feelings and associations with their regime. Famous examples of this include the 1936 Olympics held in Hitler’s Germany or Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo), dictator Mobutu Sese Seko hosting possibly boxing’s most famous fight, the Rumble in the Jungle from 1974 between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. However, users of this phrase seem to reserve it for most non-Western dictatorships (particularly China).


But sports laundering should be understood as something that all governments, especially Western governments, indulge in when sports are used as a tool to achieve anti-poor, pro-development policy goals that people would strongly oppose. another way. Los Angeles, for example, will host the 2028 Summer Olympics and now, as part of the preparations, the city is targeting the homeless population. Los Angeles would probably be chasing the homeless whether the Olympics take place or not, but the glitter of the games provides both the reason and the coverage. When athletes refuse to compete in Israel, it is a protest against sports laundering, against giving legitimacy to their occupation of Palestine.

Sportswashing is very much in the news, due to the new LIV golf tour sponsored by Saudi Arabia. Some of the biggest names in the sport, including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, have taken up to nine figures of Saudi money for the powerful purpose of getting paid, regardless of the moral implications. Mickelson now infamously spoke about this several weeks ago, when he said that the Saudis “are scary motherfuckers to get involved with. we know they killed [Jamal] Khashoggi and they have a horrible record on human rights. There they execute people for being gay. Knowing all this, why would he even consider it? Because this is a unique opportunity to reshape the way the PGA Tour operates. They have been able to get by with manipulative, coercive and heavy-handed tactics, because we, the players, had no recourse.”

In other words, Mickelson, somewhere in his own mind, might be associated with some dangerous characters, but he’s nobly breaking control of the game akin to that of a PGA cartel. He looks in the mirror and sees Curt Flood with a putter, with that fortune that he is receiving in payment only from the spoils of war. This is, of course, nonsense. People like Flood, the baseball player who fought for free agency, risked everything to win job freedom and didn’t secure a bag of money because of his problems.

This is typical of golf politics: very conservative, allergic to social responsibility, resentful of progress and always looking for money.

In addition to Saudi Arabia’s horrific human rights record, it is now known that prominent Saudis had a significant role in planning the 9/11 attacks, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were in fact Saudis. This reality has fueled an injection of anger and nationalism in the backlash against Mickelson and his compatriots. The group 9/11 Families United sent an open letter to golfers criticizing them and, as Sports Illustrated he reported, “expressing outrage that the group would become a business partner of the new league and engage in laundering sports.”