Phil Mickelson will stop at nothing to resist the PGA Tour – he won’t even volunteer to join the Saudis’ new golf league, while acknowledging their human rights abuses.
Alan Shipnuck, whose biography of Mickelson is coming soon, Posted an excerpt from his book about Mickelson’s intent to join the Saudi Arabia-backed Super Golf League, which was founded in an effort to create a true alternative to the PGA Tour and has done its best to help big-name golfers lure away from the PGA.
Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau are two of the more famous golfers affiliated with the SGL, although many of the connections are little more than rumored at this point. But in Shipnuck’s clip, we get to see the mental gymnastics that Mickelson performs to make up for himself, with the knowledge he has, to join the SGL.
“They are scary motherfuckers to get involved with. We know that they killed Khashoggi and have a terrible human rights record. They execute people there because they are gay. Knowing all this, why should I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the way the PGA Tour works. They managed to get by with manipulative, coercive tactics with strong arms because we, the players, had no recourse. as nice as a man [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as unless you have influence, he won’t do the right thing. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure if I want it [the SGL] to succeed, but just the idea of it allows us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.”
He also refers to the PGA as a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy, which he disagrees with. This is such a fascinating look at the cognitive dissonance that Mickelson goes through, because unlike other golfers in the past, he honestly tells us he understands what’s at stake.
Sport can transcend much in our world – political disagreements, language and cultural barriers, class differences, even international hostility. At what point should we stop this transcendence?
The Olympics have long been an example of walking that line, erasing the harsh realities of life in one country or another in what’s known as “sports washes.” Look at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, for example, or Formula 1 races in Saudi Arabia, or even the 2022 Olympics – under the name of sport and tradition, those in charge expect viewers to share their knowledge of human rights violations in the name of old-fashioned fun. international competition.
The Saudis have been big proponents of sportswashing, and their latest venture, the Super Golf League, has thrown a curveball of sorts at the golfers interested in getting involved. Seemingly well aware of Saudi Arabia’s reputation for human rights, several golfers have contented themselves with apologizing or defending the country to justify playing there.
When Tiger Woods refused to participate in a tournament in Saudi Arabia in 2019, he stated that the travel distance was the reason for sitting out, and when asked about criticism of the players who chose to travel, said “I understand the politics behind it, but golf can also help a lot to heal from that.”
This kind of willComplete ignorance to believe that golf would somehow cure human rights abuses is extremely damaging in this situation. Another great player, Justin Rose, said of a tournament in Saudi Arabia in 2019: “I’m not a politician, I’m a professional golfer.”
Civil rights attorney and blogger Will Bardwell pointed it out in an excellent piece on sports washing published earlier this week “the incentives for autocratic regimes to portray themselves favorably are apparent” through “the deliberate use of high-level sports to portray host countries as non-oppressive, progressive countries when they are often anything but.”
In Bardwell’s blog post, he quotes Jules Boykoff, chair of Pacific University’s Department of Politics and Government: “Saudi Arabia has long been criticized for its human rights problems. It has managed to stay ahead of it, primarily by having oil. That helps — but also by letting countries like the United States shine over that reality to nurture relationships with them.” As the world becomes less dependent on Saudi Arabia’s main export, oil, they are turning to other forms of economic growth and international imagery.
And they made the right choice – sport is above all the one thing that people really believe has the power to unite the world by existing above it. That’s what’s so wild about Mickelson’s venture into this new league – he knows it won’t happen. He realizes that golf is just golf, and he does all this to bully the PGA for not wanting to give him more money. Maybe it’s a matter of principle, but it’s about who gets the money. His only concern is to somehow get back to Monahan, and he doesn’t care who he has to go through to do that.
So does his acknowledgment of the country’s sins make up for his choices, or does it encourage sport-washing even more? It’s a very strange scenario to be in, especially with Mickelson approaching the end of his career. I know he wants to go back to the PGA, but at what future cost? However, I doubt he cares much about the future costs as long as he gets his money and media rights for his last few seasons from the SGL.
Mickelson’s comments don’t sit well, especially after he criticized the PGA Tour a few weeks ago for their “unpleasant greed.” Pot, meet kettle.