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  • Reverend James Squire

Show Me The Money

The Saudi government has been widely accused of “sports washing” using all of the big-time sports moves to clean up the image of a country that discriminates against women, bans homosexuality, and has alleged links to terrorism. The crown prince has been accused of orchestrating the murder of Khashoggi and being linked to the terrorist attack on 9/11.

Lionel Messi is perhaps the greatest soccer star in the world. He will play for Miami next year. His salary is still being worked out, but we know that with endorsements and other incentives, it will be a fraction of the offer made by the Saudi government to come and play for them. It has been reported that a highly paid soccer player in our country will be paid $14 million, but clearly Messi would be offered more. The Saudi government has offered him $400 million dollars plus extras. It is estimated that he could earn 10% of that for playing for Miami. He couldn’t be bought by the Saudi government. They showed him the money, and he said, “No deal!” Another top ranked soccer player took a Saudi deal and will be making $200 million.

Let’s contrast Messi’s decision with the recent decision on Tuesday by the PGA tour, and the European tour to join Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund so they will combine their commercial businesses into a new company to unify golf. All lawsuits will be dropped.

The head of the PGA, Jay Monahan, said that this was all about promoting golf by combining these entities and stopping the bad press between the PGA and LIV. He said that has hurt golf. The Saudi government had already offered $700 million to Tiger Woods. He turned them down. Some will say he did that because he had a lot of money. But $700 million isn’t chump change.

Just two years ago Monahan yoked his comments in not joining LIV in a gesture of support of families of 9/11 victims. He indicated that it would be unacceptable to do business with the Saudis with their alleged support of that terroristic event. Some of those who perpetuated that act were from Saudi Arabia.

A couple of things have been revealed. Many who support human rights, the people affected by 9/11, Congress itself, golfers in the USA, and people who want justice for the killing of Khashoggi are not buying the new moral higher ground that Monahan is peddling that “this is the best thing that ever happened to support golf.”

(Full disclosure) I have never played golf, never watch it on TV, don’t follow it at all in the press, but have many friends who find it to be a great part of their lives. In other words, I don’t have a dog in this fight.

However, I do care deeply about the lack of ethics in this recent action. I always told my students that, at times, they have to be ethics detectives. If there is a rapid change of perspective by someone like Monahan, believe that there must be something going on. Beyond show me the money, why would the Saudis want to be so helpful to us and Europe? They are the last in line of being ambassadors of good will. We could apply Utilitarian Ethics to use which has a central premise as the greatest good for the greatest number of your designated group. The Saudis would say, “Us!” and Monahan would say golf not the moral reputation of our nation. The current players in LIV are thrilled with the merger. It takes away any guilt they might have felt in the first place for leaving the PGA for more money with a very suspect Saudi government. I haven’t forgotten Kushner with the $2 billion he got from the Saudis, but that’s for another day. Candidate Christie has already called him out on that.

So, what would my students find if they looked deeper. Utilitarian Ethics contains consequentialism. What you do now affects the consequences of how your decision affects future decisions. It is the possibility of having bad unintended consequences that make the decision right or wrong. It is sometimes referred to as the teleological suspension of the ethical.

Here is what is underneath this decision. Obviously, money is involved. But there is more. Here is what my students would have discovered. “Sports washing” is a means to an end. The Saudis would like to be partners with ALL the major sports in the world. Their Saudi fund is worth $700 billion dollars so money really can’t be the whole picture. However, they will have a lot to say with decisions by this new golf merger. Money talks! 75% of the Saudi population is under 35 and are really connected to the world of sport.

But there is more! The Saudis want to get out of the oil business and into the sports business which has great profits as well, and they can do “sports washing” to raise their international reputation from terrible people to those who are great people. Golf is the tip of the iceberg. Money talks with reputations as well when you put ethics aside.

Below you will find a clip from Jerry Maguire. Tom Cruise is a sports agent and Cuba Goodling is his client. Clearly Monahan should have watched it before dealing with the Saudis. I am sorry for the one expletive in the video below, but the segment makes an important point about the world of sports. The Saudis are just taking it to a new level.

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