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    Fallout from the PGA’s shocking merger with LIV


    “The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

    Credit: Photo illustration: Jack Forbes/Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images(4)Credit: Photo illustration: Jack Forbes/Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images(4)

    Credit: Photo illustration: Jack Forbes/Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images(4)

    What’s happening

    The PGA Tour on Tuesday shocked the sports world by announcing it , abruptly ending between golf’s strongest legacy brand and the Saudi-owned upstart that had challenged its dominance over the global game.

    Thanks to massive investment from the Public Investment Fund run by Saudi Arabia’s government, LIV Golf immediately became a major competitor to the PGA when it launched last year. The new tour recruited some of golf’s biggest names, with contracts reportedly worth . The PGA fired back by who competed in LIV events, barring them from participating in the world’s most prestigious tournaments.

    Last year, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan also framed the choice between the two leagues in moral terms by referencing Saudi Arabia’s and specifically invoking allegations that the Saudi government played a role in the . “I would ask any player that has left or any player that would ever consider leaving, have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?” he said during an interview with CBS last June.

    News that the two tours would join forces from a number of players, some of whom reportedly turned down enormous offers from LIV to remain in the PGA. “It’s hard for me not to sit up here and feel somewhat like a sacrificial lamb,” , who had been among the PGA’s most ardent defenders over the past year, told reporters on Wednesday. “I still hate LIV,” he added. “I hate them.”

    As part of the deal, the Saudi investment fund will become the sole financial backer of the newly unified tour. The PGA will retain operating control and hold a majority on the new entity’s board of directors. The agreement also closes out all litigation between the two groups, including an antitrust suit filed against the PGA by several LIV players.

    Why there’s debate

    Those criticisms were echoed in the public response to the merger. The PGA was condemned by commentators who argued that the tour’s leaders abandoned their principles in exchange for a massive payday from a Saudi regime that subjugates and people, and has contributed to one of the . Many said the decision may have caused irreparable damage to the PGA’s relationship with its players and the fans who enjoy the sport.

    But others pushed back by making the case that the PGA had no other choice than to partner with LIV. They argue that the Saudis could have used their seemingly bottomless financial resources to slowly drive the PGA out of existence by poaching its high-profile athletes and locking the PGA into neverending legal battles. The tour’s defenders say merging with LIV not only saves the PGA from an existential threat but brings in a huge influx of money that will enrich players and improve the viewing experience for fans.

    Whatever the motivation behind it, many observers say the merger marks a major breakthrough for Saudi Arabia’s “sports washing” campaign of using athletics as a way to counter its image as a brutal authoritarian state.

    What’s next

    Many questions remain about how things will work in professional golf now that the two tours have combined forces, including what the move means for sponsors, broadcasters and players who left for LIV. There has also been some suggestion that the merger from U.S. government regulators, who have the power to block the deal if they believe it would violate antitrust laws.

    Perspectives

    The PGA sold out everything it claimed to stand for

    “If the PGA thinks that ignoring all the Saudi monarchy’s sins is just the cost of doing business, then the golf league’s reputation and credibility clearly weren’t worth that much to begin with.” — Jemele Hill,

    The deal is a major win for everyone involved

    “The golf tour merger may rank as the biggest in the sporting world and will benefit all parties involved. Golfers will no longer have to choose between playing in the LIV and other tour tournaments. The PGA and DP World Tour will lose a formidable competitor, and the Crown Prince will have help to rehabilitate his international standing.” — Editorial,

    The PGA had to partner with the Saudis to save itself

    “The PGA Tour is a real business, with fiscal realities and responsibilities. LIV is a promotional arm of the $600-plus billion PIF. It could lose money for years to come, rack up legal bills, overpay for aging stars and it wouldn’t matter. It could bleed out the PGA. The result here was inevitable. LIV was eventually going to win. So maybe Monahan got the best deal he could and the PGA Tour players will now get to play essentially the same tour they already do, only for bigger prize money.” — Dan Wetzel,

    It will now be even harder for fans to enjoy the sport they love

    “Enjoying golf while having even a glancing interest in any kind of justice has always been a cognitive dissonance trick. It’s a rich-skewing, white-skewing, often purposefully exclusionary game that uses unfathomable quantities of water for private recreation. … The Saudis becoming a permanent fixture at the sport’s top tier adds another, deeper level to the things one must square, or ignore, when deciding to enjoy golf.” — Alex Kirshner,

    All the drama over the merger will quickly become a distant memory

    “Having seen Middle Eastern entities take over many sports teams in my day … my guess is that this reality will eventually become background noise for most viewers and even most media. Golf will endure because it always does. … Any boycotts and public upset will likely be short-lived. We might get the golf-viewing version of what actual golfers go through all the time — promising they are done with the sport only to be back at it the next day. But that’s golf. It’s just owned by someone else now.” — Kevin Clark,

    Anyone expecting morality from a for-profit business is destined to be disappointed

    “The PGA Tour’s merger with LIV Golf, announced out of the blue on Tuesday morning, could be called a betrayal of every principle the PGA ever espoused. But you can only say that if you were ever enough of a sucker to believe the PGA had any in the first place.” — Will Leitch,

    The PGA invited backlash by framing its competition with LIV in such absurd moral terms

    “If the PGA objection to LIV had primarily been a financial one — ‘We don’t want these guys coming along, stealing some of our biggest names, and hosting their own tournaments and getting their own television deals’ — yesterday’s merger wouldn’t seem like such a betrayal. Institutions make decisions based on financial interests all the time. But the PGA made a moral objection to the Saudis and LIV. They had the stones to invoke 9/11 as part of their argument.” — Jim Geraghty,

    As upset as they are, players stand to benefit significantly

    ‘This isn’t over. This isn’t unity. The fallout is only beginning. This is a victory for LIV Golf. The PGA Tour caved, and the landscape has already changed. Acrimony aside, those changes benefit the players in the form of more autonomy and significantly bigger purses.” — Sam Farmer,

    There’s nothing unique about the PGA doing business with an oppressive regime

    “The PGA isn’t alone in its willingness to do business with countries that have troubling human rights records. In recent years, both the NBA and the WTA have accommodated China’s political prerogatives after high-profile standoffs over human rights. In both cases, the money to be made in China’s market overrode moral concerns. The PGA’s abrupt decision to merge with LIV is no different. As long as money rules U.S. professional sports, this won’t be the last time such compromises are made.” — Adam Minter,

    The Saudi regime is having no trouble finding partners willing to help it burnish its tainted image

    “Tuesday’s announcement is the latest win in the Saudi kingdom’s game of ‘sports washing,’ that is, using sports as a shiny bauble to legitimize authoritarian regimes and distract from the regime’s human rights abuses.” — Dave Zirin,

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