Senate Democrats on Tuesday lit into the PGA Tour for striking a deal with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), arguing that the agreement reeks of hypocrisy and that U.S. regulators must examine it.
The tour sent shockwaves throughout the sports scene when it announced effectively a merger with LIV Golf after nearly two years of battling with the upstart golf league. Top Democrats argued that the merger will need a green light from regulators given the millions of dollars that is set to boost the league via the PIF.
“Yes,” Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters at the Capitol. “And the question obviously is whether or not there is any current laws involving foreign relations or foreign business dealings that haven’t been complied with.”
Durbin added that he expects the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will look into the deal.
The accord also received a scathing reception from Tri-State area senators who remain supportive of families affected by the 9/11 terror attacks. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) panned the PGA Tour for paying “lip service” to the game as it will now be used “unabashedly by the Kingdom to distract from its many crimes.”
“The PGA Tour has placed a price on human rights and betrayed the long history of sports and athletes that advocate for social change and progress,” Blumenthal said in a statement, adding that he will “keep a close eye on the structure of this deal and its implications.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said he met with officials from the PGA in recent months who complained about how the human rights record compiled by the Saudis “should disqualify them from having a stake in a major American sport.”
“ I guess maybe their concerns weren’t really about human rights?” Murphy said.
The deal between the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour would see them drop litigation against one another and come together “under one umbrella.”
“We’ve recognized that together, we can have a far greater impact on this game than we can working apart,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan told CNBC. “The game of golf is better for what we’ve done here today.”
Multiple PGA Tour golfers indicated that they had no idea any deal was in the works and that they found out about it through media reports.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who chairs the Foreign Relations panel, declined to say whether the committee will look into it, saying he had just head about the news.
“I am surprised because they made a big deal about the principle of playing for the PGA and players selling out for money,” Menendez told The Hill. “Well, I guess one might say the same about the PGA.”