Share this post

🔢 Key Takeaways

  1. Sportswashing is a common tactic used by countries to improve their reputation globally by hosting mega events like the Olympics and the World Cup. Soft power is used to create a positive image using sports events, despite the lack of functioning democracies and limited freedom of the press.
  2. Sports have the ability to boost a country's global image and popularity, and are even more effective than economic power in winning hearts and minds. However, the rise of sportswashing in professional sports can mask human rights violations in oppressive regimes.
  3. The LIV Golf tour, with its lucrative contracts for top players, is being criticized as an attempt at sportswashing by some in the golf world. The nonprofit P.G.A. Tour, on the other hand, offers opportunities for players to earn money through purses, pensions, and sponsorships.
  4. Saudi Arabia is using sports to divert attention from its human rights abuses and corruption. Their attempt to enter professional golf has been met with backlash due to their connections with past atrocities.
  5. The new Saudi golf tour provides a chance for less established players to earn guaranteed money, while raising questions about revenue sharing across professional sports leagues.
  6. Professional golfers struggle to negotiate better contracts due to the lack of transparency in PGA Tour spending. The idea of a rival tour has been around for decades, but legal concerns and lack of media coverage remain a challenge.
  7. The newly formed LIV Golf series with backing from Saudi investors has caused controversy among golfers over the ethics of accepting money from questionable sources. Some big names declined to participate while others took the opportunity for a hefty paycheck.
  8. Mickelson's comments highlight the complexities of the financial and ethical considerations in professional golf. While he sees potential in the LIV Golf league, his remarks also raise concerns about supporting those involved in human rights violations.
  9. Professional golfers face a tough decision when it comes to aligning themselves with a government responsible for human rights violations. Accepting lucrative offers may mean tacitly supporting these atrocities, causing ethical dilemmas to arise.
  10. The use of sponsorships for profit or to support struggling organizations raises questions about the moral and political implications of accepting money. Conversations around accountability and ethical economic relations are necessary.
  11. Complex political and economic ties dictate ownership of top sports clubs, leading to controversies. Events like the corrupt Qatar World Cup demand greater transparency and scrutiny, especially of funding and ownership sources.
  12. Hosting international events in countries with questionable human rights records raises ethical questions about supporting such regimes through financial and symbolic means. It also highlights the potential for sports to divert attention from larger political and social issues.
  13. Sportswashing is a strategy used by countries to promote a positive image through major events. However, it often results in corruption, negative impact on the environment and communities, and cannot erase underlying issues. Ultimately, it seeks to keep citizens happy and proud.
  14. Sporting events have been used for political purposes in the past, but winning athletes can disrupt these agendas. Countries that use sports to cover up corruption may face negative attention.
  15. While Qatar is home to a respected news organization like Al-Jazeera, it faces criticism over its treatment of foreign workers and conservative stance on women's and LGBTQ rights. The country also uses sportswashing to improve its image, but we should question this practice.

📝 Podcast Notes

The Art of Sportswashing: Using Sports Events to Distract from National Issues

Sportswashing is the act of using sports events as a distraction from a country's problems. It is not a new concept, as it dates back to ancient Rome and the idea of 'bread and circuses'. Today, countries like Russia, China, and the Middle East engage in sportswashing by hosting mega events like the Olympics and World Cup to improve their image globally. These countries may argue that other nations have a similar reputation, but the lack of functioning democracies and limited freedom of the press puts them at the bottom of openness indexes. Sportswashing falls under soft power, using sport to create a positive image without the use of force or military intervention. Despite not being a major economic sector, people remain fascinated with sports, making it a powerful tool for nations.

The Power of Sports in Building a Nation's Reputation and Soft Power

Sports have the power to burnish a nation's reputation and increase its soft power. Thailand uses 'gastrodiplomacy' to promote its cuisine and increase its global popularity. Soft power can be more effective than economic power in winning hearts and minds. The rise of sportswashing in professional sports attempts to cover up human rights violations and bring legitimacy to oppressive regimes. Sports fans believe in the meritocracy of sports as they may not believe in meritocracy elsewhere. The power of sports in promoting a nation's image and soft power is an increasingly important topic in today's world.

Golf World Divided on New LIV Tour Backed by Saudi Arabia's Sovereign Wealth Fund

Brandel Chamblee and others in the golf world are opposed to the new LIV Golf tour, which is being backed by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. The tour is seen as an attempt at sportswashing, which is a term coined to describe a country's use of sporting events to deflect attention from human rights violations. The P.G.A. Tour, which operates as a member-driven, philanthropic, nonprofit organization, offers no salaries but provides players with opportunities to earn money through purses, pension funds, and corporate sponsorships. LIV Golf is marketing itself as a rival tour to the P.G.A. Tour and aiming to attract superstar players with lucrative contracts.

The Dark Side of Saudi Arabia's Sports Strategy

Saudi Arabia is using sportswashing to manipulate the market with an economy of corruption, paying lavish sums of money to get the world to look at what they're doing as reform, even though the country is experiencing unprecedented repression. Despite being in the middle of a desert with few golf courses and a tiny golfing population, Saudi Arabia wants to get into professional golf and is paying seven-figure appearance fees to top golfers to play in the Saudi International tournament. However, this has sparked outcry due to the country's human rights abuses, links to the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, and their connection to the 9/11 hijackers. The new LIV Golf season will have eight tournaments scheduled, furthering the sportswashing strategy.

Saudi Golf Tour Offers Big Money and Opportunity for Lesser-Known Players

The new Saudi golf tour promises to offer big money, attract top players and gain a foothold in the golf world. It has a relatively small field of 48 players, no cut, and a purse of $20 million compared to $7 million for the P.G.A. Tour event. The guaranteed money would definitely attract lesser-known players whose careers are on the edge but will not likely entice the established top names. The P.G.A. Tour, on the other hand, is a more stressful, purely merit-based system where players have to fund their own travel, hotels, and all expenses. The P.G.A. Tour players often criticize that too much money is siphoned off that should be going to the players. This raises questions about the share of revenues going to players in comparison to other professional sports like the N.B.A. or the N.F.L.

The Lack of Transparency in Professional Golf Revenue Sharing and the Struggle for Player Independence.

The lack of transparency is a major issue among professional golfers when it comes to their share of revenues. The PGA Tour operates without revealing how it spends its revenues which makes it difficult for golfers to negotiate better contracts. The idea of having a rival tour has been around for decades, and though new ventures have been created, none have succeeded in attracting top-tier players. The PGA Tour has threatened to ban golfers who participate in these new ventures, raising legal concerns over their independence as contractors. With major media outlets refusing to broadcast these events, it remains to be seen how successful these new ventures will be in challenging the PGA Tour's dominance and ensuring better contracts for players.

Golfers Split on New LIV Golf Series Backed by Saudi investors

Some of the biggest names in golf, including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have declined to participate in the LIV Golf series, a new league backed by Saudi investors. However, U.S. golfer Dustin Johnson has signed on and will reportedly receive $150 million for headlining the series, while Phil Mickelson has apparently signed a contract for $200 million. This massive influx of cash from Saudi investors has led to a global discussion about sportswashing and the ethics of accepting money from questionable sources. Mickelson's outspoken criticism of the Saudis has only made the controversy even more fervent. Meanwhile, other golfers are taking a break from public scrutiny, including Mickelson himself, who withdrew from the P.G.A. Championship to focus on personal growth.

Phil Mickelson's Candid Opinions on Professional Golf and the Saudi Funded League

In a recent conversation with Alan Shipnuck, Phil Mickelson expressed his grievances with the P.G.A. Tour and his candid opinions about the Saudi funded rival golf league, LIV Golf. Mickelson admitted that he was not sure if he even wanted the league to succeed but saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape professional golf. Despite being aware of the Saudis' human rights violations and their involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Mickelson called them "scary motherfuckers." This conversation sheds light on the power dynamics and financial motivations in professional golf and raises concerns about ethical considerations in sports.

Professional Golfers' Ethical Dilemma: Money vs. Human Rights

Despite the allure of a multi-million dollar tournament, professional golfers must balance their financial interests with the ethical implications of aligning themselves with a government responsible for human rights violations. Phil Mickelson's involvement in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf league confirms the long-standing partnership between athletes and Saudi Arabia, but Mickelson's blatant disregard for human rights and his sneaky efforts to undermine his home circuit have garnered widespread criticism from golf fans and analysts alike. Brandel Chamblee argues that by accepting this money, these golfers are tacitly supporting the Saudi regime and its atrocities. While the Saudi investment fund responsible for this new golf tour also invested in major American companies such as Uber and Facebook, the ethical implications of this partnership cannot be ignored.

The ethical debate surrounding golf sponsorships in Saudi Arabia

The recent debate around golf competitions sponsored by the Saudi Public Investment Fund has highlighted the complex relationship between morality, profit, and politics. Karen Crouse's comments suggest that the PGA Tour is facing an existential threat from innovative competitors, but may be more focused on deflecting attention from its own issues. Meanwhile, the Ladies European Tour has accepted five Saudi sponsorships to support its struggling tour. This raises questions around the moral calculus of accepting money based on the financial situation of the organization. The situation with Saudi Arabia also highlights the complex economic and political ties between governments and corporations, with Joe Biden's visit to rebuild relations revealing the influence of oil on global politics. These debates require deeper conversations around accountability and the ethics of economic relations.

The Need for Transparency in Sports Ownership and Funding

The controversy surrounding the Saudi golf league is a minor issue compared to the complex political and economic relationships behind the ownership of prominent soccer clubs. Many of these clubs are owned by individuals or countries with questionable human rights records and have been linked to bribery and corruption. The upcoming World Cup hosted by Qatar, acquired through corruption, raises questions about the event's legitimacy. Additionally, Qatar's lack of infrastructure and extreme temperatures make hosting the tournament a challenge. These issues highlight the need for greater scrutiny and transparency in the world of sports, particularly in relation to the sources of funding and ownership of major teams and events.

Hosting Major Sporting Events in Countries with Poor Human Rights Records

Hosting major sporting events in countries with questionable human rights records has long been an issue, and Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup is fraught with logistical and ethical challenges. The scheduling of the tournament during the traditional season of club football leagues has caused controversy and requires significant adjustment. Despite this, bribery and other corrupt practices are still more effective than 'sportswashing' to secure the hosting rights. The focus on sports as entertainment can overshadow the larger political and social issues in these countries, and the perception that sports are always on the 'right side' of morality can prevent deeper analysis and discussion. Ultimately, hosting events in countries with poor human rights records raises questions about the ethics of supporting such regimes through financial and symbolic means.

The Dark Side of Sportswashing

Sportswashing is a strategy used by countries to promote a positive image in the global arena by hosting major sporting events. However, it is marred with corruption and the true intentions of the host country are not always accomplished. The incentive to host these events is persistently high because of the monetary gains that come with it, despite the negative impact on the environment and local communities. Sportswashing is not always effective as it works at the margins and cannot erase the underlying issues, as seen in the invasion of Ukraine after the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Ultimately, the goal of sportswashing is not only to promote a positive image to the external world, but also to keep their own citizens happy and proud.

The 1936 Olympics and Sports as Propaganda

Hitler used the 1936 Olympics in Berlin to showcase Aryan dominance and projected power to the rest of the world. However, Jesse Owens, an African-American track star, winning four gold medals ruined this propaganda. The event did solidify Hitler's standing with his own people as it sent the message that Germany was a force to be reckoned with. Countries like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, who engage in sportswashing, may face a backfire effect as attention is drawn to their corruption and misuse of funds. The Winter Olympics in Sochi and the upcoming World Cup in Qatar are examples of this.

Qatar's Complex Reality: Al-Jazeera, Human Rights Issues, and Sportswashing

Qatar has been highlighted for both positive and negative reasons. While Al-Jazeera is a good news organization, Qatar has been criticized for its treatment of foreign workers and its conservative stance on women's and LGBTQ rights. The country has imported a large number of guest workers and put them in terrible working conditions, leading to the deaths of thousands. Additionally, citizens are not given full participation in society and the workforce. The concept of sportswashing is prevalent in the country as it aims to improve its image and attract tourism. However, it is important to question the motives and actions of countries that adopt this practice.