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Where have you gone, Arthur Ashe? LIV Tour golfers need you.

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Ah, too typical response. Imagine Ashe saying the same thing when visiting Schwartzel’s homeland at the height of his racist viciousness. Cynics claim that no one has the high ground, so there is little point in mixing sports with politics and human rights, as, for example, Wimbledon did this year when it excluded Russian and Belarusian players due to war from its nations against Ukraine.

No one should accept that. Not when we’re talking about nations like Saudi Arabia, where “it’s the strategy of the state” to use sports to hide its record of human rights abuses, said Adam Coogle, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights. Clock.

“Sports washing,” as it is known, has long been an unfortunate fact of life. That is why the Nazis organized the 1936 Olympics and China hosted the Summer Games in 2008 and the Winter Games in 2022. Vladimir V. Putin used athletic success to make Russia look like a respectable member of the community. international and a global force. Now we know the cost.

The Saudis are still new to these types of high-stakes mirages, but under Prince Mohammed’s de facto rule since 2016, they are making up for lost time with sports and entertainment. Hence the celebration of Formula 1 races and professional wrestling and football matches. Last year, they bought the Premier League football club Newcastle United. Now they are turning to golf, a sport loved by corporate kingpins and the political class. In other words, the kind of people whose decisions directly affect the desert kingdom.

Meanwhile, repression remains a daily fact of life in Saudi Arabia. Saudi citizens do not enjoy the right of free assembly and association. The legal system is not independent. Due process is a farce. “There is a complete blockade of free speech,” Coogle told me, speaking from Jordan last week by phone. The Saudis, he said, “are not allowed to express even an iota of criticism” of the nation’s leadership.

To criticize, Coogle emphasized, is to risk arrest, torture or death.

“With the rise to power of the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he promised to embrace social and economic reform,” Khashoggi wrote in 2017. “He spoke of making our country more open and tolerant.”

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