BEDMINSTER, N.J. — Charles Barkley has an issue for people wondering why anyone would associate with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour: Why aren’t they outraged by all the opposite American corporations doing business with the identical controversial wealth management fund, which is overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia?
“You’ll be able to’t pick and select who you need to be mad at,” Barkley said Thursday, noting a number of the corporations the fund has invested in. “They ought to be mad at Berkshire Hathaway, Tesla, Bank of America, Disney. But they’re not. They are only mad at these golfers.”
A minimum of, that’s Barkley’s view and the view pushed by many individuals working with the brand new breakaway tour that’s causing a lot upheaval in golf, sports and U.S.-Saudi relations. For some, the tour is a livelier money cow offering huge guaranteed sums to entice golfers away from the established PGA Tour. For others, it’s a cynical attempt by the Saudi prince to make use of sports as a technique to sanitize his government’s poor global record on human-rights abuses.
Barkley, never one to cover from controversy, was right in the course of all of it on Thursday, together with the previous President and tournament host, Donald J. Trump.
On a steamy day on the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, which is hosting the third LIV Golf event starting Friday, Barkley sweated through questions on his potential involvement with the tour after which sweated through 18 holes within the pro-am tournament.
For now, Barkley, a former basketball star and widely popular hoops commentator on the TNT sports network, is barely a guest of the tournament. He has had informal talks with Greg Norman, the chief executive of the LIV series, about joining as a commentator. But he said no official offer has been made, and he imposed a Friday deadline on the tour to accomplish that.
“After I get up within the morning, in the event that they haven’t said anything, I’m going to say, ‘Guys, I’ll play in your pro-am every time you wish me to, if I’m available. But I’m going to return to my job.’ I like my job and I don’t think it’s fair for them to maintain holding on.”
The tour has already lured David Feherty, the previous NBC golf analyst, to affix its livestream. It doesn’t actually have a television contract yet. But Barkley, who has earned broad appeal along with his rollicking, unedited, comedic approach to basketball evaluation but has also been criticized for sexist jokes about women, can be an infinite boon for the fledgling golf tour.
He has three years remaining on his contract with TNT, he said, and it could take an infinite sum of money for him to defect.
“I’m probably going to lose all my sponsors and all the pieces, so that they would need to make it value my while,” he said. “But in the event that they don’t, I’m still going to support these guys.”
A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series
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A recent series. The launch of latest Saudi-financed LIV Golf series has resurfaced longstanding questions on athletes’ moral obligations and their desire to compete and earn money. Here’s what to know:
What’s LIV Golf? The series is an upstart skilled golf circuit bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Its organizers hope to position it as a player-power-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, which has been the best level of professional golf for nearly a century.
Why is the brand new series controversial? The event has created sparks inside golf for upending the traditions and strictures of how the sport is played. It has also develop into a lightning rod for human rights campaigners who accuse Saudi Arabia of using sports to launder its popularity.
Who’s playing it? Lots of the most important names in golf, corresponding to Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have stayed away from LIV Golf. But several big names and former major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio García, joined. Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who was imagined to lead Europe’s team on the 2023 Ryder Cup, was removed as captain after announcing his move to the series.
What’s attracting the players? The LIV Golf events are the richest tournaments in golf history. The primary tournament’s total purse was $25 million, and the winner’s share was $4 million. The last-place finisher at each event was guaranteed $120,000. That’s on top of the looks fees and nine-figure signing-on payouts some players have accepted.
The rationale he would lose sponsors is that Barkley, who adores golf, could endure a backlash if he formally joins the LIV tour in some capability. He’s certainly one of many individuals facing criticism for joining, contemplating joining and even just condoning the LIV tour, a team-golf concept bankrolled by Prince Mohammed’s fund.
The prince is a sinister figure to many individuals around the globe, especially after American intelligence officials determined that he had approved the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist who was a critic of the Saudi government.
Further, families of a number of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks consider that the Saudi government supported the terrorists before they acted. They planned to protest on the tournament on Friday. Barkley didn’t dismiss the pain and betrayal they feel, but he questioned why all of it was focused on the golf tour.
When other corporations that do business with the Saudis give their a reimbursement to the fund, he said, then it’s fair to criticize only the golfers.
“I can sympathize with the 9/11 families,” Barkley said. “They’ve a right to voice their opinions.”
Barkley also said it’s naïve to think that Saudi Arabia is the one bad actor as a nation and cited the USA for having a blemished record on human rights at times.
Barkley said every country was guilty of doing “terrible” things.
“It’s not like America has got an important civil rights record, OK? If you need to be selectively outraged. I like America. It’s the best country on the planet. But don’t act like we ain’t done our share and still doing our share. Let’s get that out of the way in which.”
When he was done answering questions, Barkley joined a foursome that also included the professional golfers Sergio García, Louis Oosthuizen and Geoffrey Zakarian, a celeb chef. Barkley being Barkley, there have been plenty of guffaws.
“Charles is such a gracious, good-natured guy, and he doesn’t take anything too seriously,” Zakarian said. “And he’s a variety of fun to play with.”
On one hole, Barkley warned two people on an approaching golf cart to be alert to Zakarian’s impending shot. When it was Barkley’s turn to shoot, he loudly noted that the cart was backing as much as avoid a possible errant shot by him but didn’t move for Zakarian. His group erupted in laughter.
“It’s OK,” Barkley told the driving force. “I’m not sensitive.”
He also discussed basketball, noting in his typically irreverent way that Kevin Durant would stick with the Nets and make a formidable lineup alongside Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons.
“They may need one of the best team on the planet at once,” he said. “Kyrie goes to have something to prove because he knows if he comes on the market and is a jackass all 12 months, he’s not going to get no big contract next 12 months.”
As with the rebel golf tour, much of sports is concerning the money.