LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman met with federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to lobby for the new circuit, which will be funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and his message drew mixed criticism from politicians .
Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett told ESPN he walked out of Norman’s lunchtime meeting with the Republican Study Committee, calling his lobbying “propaganda.” He also took part in Twitter question Saudi Arabia’s ties on the September 11 attacks and his role in the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a US citizen.
“It’s propaganda,” Burchett said of Norman’s meeting. “I don’t want to hear about that. It’s not for Congress to settle a fight between a group of billionaires over a game of golf. You must bring him to justice. Congress made a huge mistake by getting involved in major league baseball. Here we are dealing with a [league] financed by some Saudis. I just thought our priorities were out of whack.”
Norman told reporters after lunch he wanted lawmakers “to have both sides of the story so they understand what LIV is about,” according to a report by The Hill.
“Don’t come here and pretend you’re doing something great while pimping a billion dollars in Saudi Arabian money,” Texas Rep. Chip Roy told reporters after lunch.
“I respect Greg and his [right] to go out there and do whatever he wants,” Roy told ESPN on Wednesday. “But it’s not as simple as he tries to make it out to be. He says they just want competition and it’s like there are hummingbirds and butterflies flying around everywhere. The big bad PGA Tour and their monopoly keep them from having their great little competition. It’s much, much more complex than that.”
Roy said he questioned Norman about why LIV Golf and its associates are not registered as foreign agents with the federal government. Norman told reporters LIV Golf is a commercial operation, “so we’re just here to promote the game of golf.”
Roy said Norman tried to avoid discussing LIV Gulf’s ties to Saudi Arabia.
“They honestly just didn’t want to talk about Saudi Arabia,” Roy said. “That’s the honest truth. I think it was suggested as something to get in there and sort of explain that and talk about it, but I felt like it was very clear that they didn’t want to talk about it. Former President Trump, who by the way is financially interested in LIV, has said that this is a billion dollar endorsement for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They just sort of dismiss it.
Roy said about 75 members of Congress attended the meeting, which Norman spoke for about 20 minutes. Other lawmakers questioned Norman about the impact this would have on the PGA Tour and its charity work, while others “had some interest in whether there was some kind of competition issue and if there’s disruption or if the PGA Tour is blocking the competition.” .
“This isn’t about pure competition,” Roy said. “Don’t come here trying to sell me something you’re not actually selling. They are selling something that is very closely related to the Saudis so that the Saudis can achieve their goal and Greg his . He always wanted a competitor to take over the tour and he couldn’t do it until he got a billion dollar sugar daddy known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The US Department of Justice has launched an investigation into whether the PGA Tour is illegally attempting to suppress competition. The PGA Tour denies the allegations.
LIV Golf and a handful of its players have also filed a state antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour for suspending members from attending LIV Golf events and allegedly pressuring vendors, broadcasters, agents and others not to cooperate with the new league .
The Washington Examiner reported Wednesday that Norman also met with senior Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, including Ohio’s Jim Jordan and Florida’s Matt Gaetz, and told lawmakers he was ready to testify before Congress on antitrust issues to discuss.
ESPN confirmed Wednesday that Norman also met with Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, the House Majority Whip, and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Clyburn’s spokesman said lawmakers also recently met with PGA Tour leadership.
“I am very encouraged that Mr. Norman has offered to testify before the House Judiciary Committee during my discussion with him today,” Gaetz said in a statement to ESPN. “He has tremendous knowledge of the role of golf in culture and in the world. I think the country would benefit from learning more about their perspective.”
ESPN Senior Contributors Michael Fletcher and Mark Fainaru-Wada contributed to this report.
https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/34638424/greg-norman-lobbies-liv-golf-congressional-visit-gets-mixed-reviews Greg Norman lobbies for LIV Golf during Congressional visit, gets mixed reviews