Report: Senators ask attorney general to review PGA Tour deal with Saudi Arabia
Federal scrutiny of the “framework” agreement between the PGA Tour and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia intensified Tuesday when a pair of U.S. senators urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to examine the deal for potential antitrust violations.
According to ESPN.com, the letter was sent by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to Garland and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter following last week’s announcement of the agreement, which has not yet been approved by the Tour’s policy board.
“The red flags regarding antitrust concerns are clear,” the senators wrote, adding the agreement, “raises an array of potential legal and regulatory issues, including relating to the PGA Tour’s non-profit tax status and antitrust law.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the chairman of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, sent a similar letter to Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman on Monday. The PIF owns 93 percent of LIV Golf.
The letter from Warren and Wyden also claimed the Tour is enabling the fund and Saudi Arabia to “sportswash” its human rights record and referenced a countersuit filed by the Tour against the PIF last year that claimed, “LIV is not a rational economic actor, competing fairly to start a golf tour. It is prepared to lose billions of dollars to leverage [U.S. golfers] and the sport of golf to ‘sportswash’ the Saudi government’s deplorable reputation for human rights abuses.”
“The PGA [Tour]-LIV deal would make a U.S. organization complicit – and force American golfers and their fans to join this complicity – in the Saudi regime’s latest attempt to sanitize its abuses by pouring funds into major sports leagues,” the letter read.
Last summer, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Tour is being investigated by the Department of Justice for potential anticompetitive behavior toward LIV Golf.
Monahan – who is “recuperating from a medical situation” the Tour announced Tuesday – pushed back at criticism last week in a letter to senators, claiming the agreement was needed to end a long and costly legal battle with the PIF and LIV Golf. He also said the agreement was the byproduct of inaction by lawmakers.
“While we are grateful for the written declarations of support we received from certain [congressional] members, we were largely left on our own to fend off the attacks, ostensibly due to the United States’ complex geopolitical alliance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Monahan wrote.