LIV CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman watches play on the third hole during the final round of the LIV Chicago Golf Invitational Series at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
Brian Spurlock | Sportswire icon | Getty Images
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman will travel to Capitol Hill this week to meet with members of Congress as the Saudi-backed league tangles with the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour has been lobbying against LIV since 2021. LIV players filed an antitrust complaint against the PGA Tour. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has been investigating possible anti-competitive behavior by the PGA Tour since July.
“LIV Golf is coming to the Hill this week to meet with lawmakers from both parties,” LIV chief spokesman Jonathan Grella told CNBC. “Given the PGA Tour’s attempts to stifle our progress in reinventing the game, we believe it is imperative to educate members about LIV’s business model and counter the Tour’s anti-competitive efforts.”
Norman must meet several legislators. Representatives Nancy Mace, R.C., and Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., lead the informal congressional golf caucus.
Representatives for the PGA Tour declined to comment on the visit. Representatives for Mace and Panetta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The LIV Golf League was founded as a competitor to the PGA Tour and is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. LIV has previously poached great golfers such as the PGA Tour’s Phil Mickelson, and Norman himself is a former tour star. The tour, in turn, banned players affiliated with LIV from participating in its events.
LIV Golf has consistently denounced the actions of the PGA Tour as anti-competitive. The upstart league said the PGA’s suspension of LIV players was an “effort to stifle competition”.
On the other side, critics have denounced the league’s associations with the Saudi government, seeing it as a “sportswashing” attempt to improve the nation’s image. Critics have also noted that the incredible wealth of the Saudi government makes any idea of real competition questionable. LIV has another strong supporter in former President Donald Trump, whose country club in Bedminster, New Jersey, hosted a league event over the summer. His Doral course in Miami will host another LIV event in late October.
Since 2021, the PGA Tour has donated $360,000 to DLA Piper to lobby lawmakers on several topics, including the “Saudi Golf League proposals.” Several legislators – including Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. — expressed concern about LIV.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has taken a tough line against LIV.
“We welcome good and healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League is not that. earlier this year.
LIV Golf also sought a media deal, as the league self-streamed its first season on its website and YouTube. Recent reports indicate that Apple and Amazon have reached a hedging agreement. League media officer Will Staeger told CNBC he’s “very optimistic” he’ll have a partnership for his 2023 season. The PGA Tour has reached deals with CBS, ESPN and NBC.
Disclosure: NBC and CNBC share the same parent company, NBCUniversal.