Report: PGA Tour stirred anti-LIV Golf sentiment but tried to hide it

In a recent court filing, LIV Golf has accused the PGA Tour of potentially funding protests by 9/11 groups to spread anti-Saudi attitudes "in an effort to maintain its unlawful monopoly."

Matt Chivers's picture
Thu, 15 Dec 2022
Report: PGA Tour stirred anti-LIV Golf sentiment but tried to hide it

LIV Golf has accused the PGA Tour of secretly orchestrating and creating anti-Saudi backlash by working with a public relations firm in Washington DC.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, LIV Golf said in a court filing to the US District Court for the District of Columbia that the PGA Tour and Clout Public Affairs LLC funded public protests in order to spread "anti-Saudi sentiment."

"The Tour has secretly directed, coordinated, and funded public protest, defamatory advertising, and other tactics to stir up anti-Saudi sentiment directed at its first-ever global competitor, all in an effort to maintain its unlawful monopoly," the filing read which was submitted on Tuesday.

LIV Golf claims the Tour hired Clout "to front this campaign, insisting that Clout conceal the Tour’s orchestration of this effort.

"The Tour knew how bad it would look if its fingerprints were on the campaign to link LIV Golf to the tragedy of the Sept. 11 attacks, so the Tour hid behind Clout."

Ahead of the second LIV Golf Invitational held in Portland in July, the 9/11 Families United Group expressed their anger at the players who are now associated with the backing of Saudi Arabia.

The group wrote a joint letter to Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Kevin Na, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed and this was signed by National Chair Terry Strada, who lost her husband Tom in the attacks on 11 September 2001.

David Polyansky, the president of Clout, confirmed that they represent the PGA Tour and that they have also helped "some 9/11 victims and families get their voices out there."

LIV Golf, which later attached itself to the antitrust lawsuit filed against the Tour in August, is seeking information from Clout and its communications with 9/11 Justice and 9/11 Families United and also its communications with the PGA Tour on the subject of these groups.

"Neither I nor 9/11 Families United took a penny from the PGA or anyone connected to golf," Strada responded.

"Over the past 21 years, I have dedicated literally thousands of hours of my own time into efforts to hold the Saudis accountable and am disgusted, but frankly not surprised, to see the Saudis attacking us personally today. Shame on them - again."

LIV Golf, commissioned by two-time major champion Greg Norman, has based the allegations on documents obtained from the PGA Tour in their current legal tussle. LIV has asked the court to make Clout comply with a subpoena, a document that orders someone to go to court.

This is the latest chapter in the legal case between the three remaining golfers and LIV Golf against the Tour. DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein are the final people left from a list which started with 11 plaintiffs.

Last week, the Tour submitted a motion to the US District Court that wanted to depose Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF, to make him comply with discovery.

According to the lawyers, Al-Rumayyan has "flatly objected to the Tour's subpoenas, refused to produce a single responsive document and declined to appear for deposition."

This motion also revealed that in its infancy, LIV Golf was called 'Project Wedge'. LIV has claimed Al-Rumayyan and the PIF provide only "high-level oversight, not the pervasive control over day-to-day operations (of LIV Golf)."