US Politicians Hit Out At 'Sportswashing' Over PGA Tour Deal With PIF

American politicians voice their stern opposition to the PGA Tour deal with the PIF, labelling it as "blatant sportswashing" by Saudi Arabia

PGA Tour chief Jay Monahan and PIF boss Yasir Al-Rumayyan
(Image credit: Getty Images)

American politicians have hit out at the PGA Tour deal with the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF), with one saying they are “sickened” and others labelling it as a “sellout” and a blatant attempt to “sportswash” by the Saudis.

The US Justice Department is already reportedly looking into the proposed deal, in the context of the antitrust lawsuits filed by both parties before PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and PIF boss Yasir Al-Rumayyan joined forces.

As many thought, the deal may not go through smoothly and politicians on Capitol Hill have weighed in strongly with criticism raining down on the PGA Tour for making such a deal.

Congressman John Garamendi has introduced a bill called the "No Corporate Tax Exemption for Professional Sports Act" and had some powerful words against both the PGA Tour and Saudi investors.

"Saudi Arabia cannot be allowed to 'sportswash' its government’s horrific human rights abuses, and the 2018 murder of American-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, by taking over the PGA," Garamendi said in a statement published by Yahoo Sports.

"PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan should be ashamed of the blatant hypocrisy and about-face he and the rest of PGA’s leadership demonstrated by allowing the sovereign wealth fund of a foreign government with an unconscionable human rights record to take over an iconic American sports league and avoid paying a penny in federal corporate income tax.

“This merger flies in the face of the PGA players who turned down hundred-million-dollar paydays from the Saudi-backed LIV to align themselves with the right side of history and human decency."

And the criticism didn’t stop there, with Senator Richard Blumenthal calling the deal “blatant sportswashing” and also adding Monahan should be ashamed: "I am disappointed and even outraged by the PGA's sellout," he said. "The PGA ought to be ashamed, and it's leadership, frankly, has lost all credibility, certainly all moral authority."

PGA Tour chief Jay Monahan

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Senator Tim Kaine went a step further as he also voiced his disappointment that the PGA Tour decided to take the Saudi investment: "I was really sickened by it. I thought the PGA was taking a principled stand," Senator Kaine told Fox News.

"When I saw the news yesterday, I was really disappointed because it seems they set aside all the human rights objections that they had and just decided ‘okay, well, we can make more money if we go a different direction.'"

With an organisation for families and victims of the 9/11 terror attacks also hitting out, saying Monahan should be ashamed, it's now clear that there'll be plenty of opposition and this deal may not go as smoothly as the two parties hope.

For their part, both Monahan and Jimmy Dunne, the architects of the deal, have insisted that the move has been made for the good of the game of golf. What's more, Monahan has accepted that he'd be labelled a hypocrite but believes the move will benefit everyone in the game, and the game itself.

Dunne had direct experience of 9/11 when losing 66 employees from his company based at the World Trade Center. Yet he says he is sure that nobody connected with the PIF and the negotiations had any involvement and is comfortable with the deal: "I’m quite certain – and I’ve had conversations with a lot of very knowledgeable people – that the people I’m dealing with had nothing to do with 9/11," said Dunne.

Some major figures from the world of golf have also voiced their opinions on the matter, with 18-time Major winner, Jack Nicklaus, giving his backing to the news of the merger. Speaking to the Palm Beach Post, Nicklaus stated: “The last three years have been difficult for the game and the players. I spoke with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan this morning. He seemed pleased with the arrangement that will once again bring together the best players in the world. I agree that this is good for the game of golf."

Paul Higham

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.