Graeme McDowell defends ‘extremely polarizing’ decision to join Saudi-funded golf tour: ‘We are not politicians’

Street. Albans, England – Graeme McDowell agrees that joining the Saudi-funded round of golf is “incredibly polarizing”. He even gave a reason for it.

“Take Khashoggi’s position, for example,” he said. “We all agree that this is reprehensible. No one will argue with that fact.”

The golfer from Northern Ireland was referring to the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. And US intelligence services said they believed that the killing of the Saudi journalist based in the United States came on the orders of the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who heads the Public Investment Fund. The prince denies any wrongdoing.

The Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund offers hundreds of millions of dollars in login fees and prize money to lure players away from scheduled rounds and jeopardize their participation in major tournaments and the Ryder Cup.

The tour is the latest offshoot of Saudi Arabia’s attempt to reposition itself as a proponent of lavish sporting events rather than one linked to human rights abuses, which rights groups call “sports washing.”

McDowell tries to avoid discussing the specifics of the country he is actively working for.

“I really feel like golf is a benevolent force in the world – I’m just trying to be a role model for kids,” he said. “We’re not political. I know you hate that expression, but we’re not, unfortunately. We’re professional golfers.”

“If Saudi Arabia wants to use golf as a way for them to get to where they want to be and have the resources to accelerate that experience, I think we are proud to help them on that journey using golf and the capabilities we have to help grow the sport and take them to where they want to be.”

But how, despite McDowell’s question, does that trip help persecuted women in Saudi Arabia, LGBT people whose rights to live freely are criminalized, migrant workers abused, victims of the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, the mother of the 81 men executed by the kingdom in March?

“I wish I had the ability to have that conversation with you,” McDowell said. “As golfers, if we try to address the geopolitical situations in every country in the world in which we play golf, we don’t play much golf. It’s a really hard question to answer.

“We’re just here to focus on golf and kind of do it globally to set an example for these guys.”

McDowell conducted most of the talk on Saudi rights issues, with two-time winner Dustin Johnson responding earlier: “I would say pretty much the same. I agree with what Graeme said.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.