In his new job as the face of a PGA Tour rival supported financially by Saudi Arabia, golf icon Greg Norman says he is not “sportswashing” the Middle Eastern nation.
Norman recently took over as CEO of LIV Golf Investments, a company-sponsored by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund that aims to disrupt the PGA Tour by paying significant money to top players for a short schedule.
“No, I haven’t been used for sportswashing,” Norman told the Financial Times. “I’ve gone to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve witnessed the improvements that have occurred.”
“Every nation has committed atrocities in the past… Just look at America’s racism, for example; it’s so deeply ingrained that it’s unattractive,” he remarked.
The Washington Post published an op-ed by Gavin Newsham earlier this month accusing Norman of “sportswashing,” citing Saudi Arabia’s gender gap (which the World Economic Forum ranks 147th out of 153 countries) and the state-ordered murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Many of the PGA Tour’s most recognized players, including Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler, and Justin Rose, were offered huge contracts by the upstart golf league in May, according to Yahoo Sports.
Some of the proposals were in the $50 million “neighbourhood” (USD). According to reports, the Super League is valued at roughly $260 million (AUD) in total.
Norman believes that top golfers are not appropriately rewarded. In 2021, Jon Rahm leads the PGA Tour in wins with $7.7 million.
“You take a look at the value that’s been created in other sports, for other players, and for other teams. He told the Financial Times, “Golf has never recognized or had the potential to grab that market.”