LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman met with federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to lobby on behalf of the new circuit funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, and his message drew mixed reviews from critics. politicians.
Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee told ESPN he walked out of Norman’s lunch with the Republican study committee and called his lobbying efforts “propaganda.” He also took to Twitter to question Saudi Arabia’s connections to the September 11 attacks and his role in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an American citizen.
“It’s propaganda,” Burchett said of the Norman reunion. “I don’t want to hear about that. It’s not Congress’s business to settle a fight between a group of billionaires over a round of golf. They have to take it to court. Congress made a big mistake in 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 that he wanted lawmakers to have “both sides of the story so they understand what LIV is,” according to a report by The Hill.
“Don’t come here and act like you’re doing something right, while you’re supporting a billion dollars in Saudi money,” Rep. Chip Roy of Texas told reporters after the working lunch.
“I respect Greg and his [right] go out and do what he wants to do,” 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 everywhere. The big, bad PGA Tour and its monopoly keep them from having their super little competition. It’s much, much more complex than that.”
Roy said he asked Norman about why LIV Golf and its employees are not registered as foreign agents with the federal government. Norman told reporters that LIV Golf is a commercial operation, “so we’re here purely to grow the game of golf.”
Roy said Norman tried to avoid talking about LIV Golf’s ties to Saudi Arabia.
“Honestly, they just didn’t want to talk about Saudi Arabia,” Roy said. “It’s the honest truth. I think it was presented as something to come and explain this and talk about it, but I felt it was very clear that they didn’t want to talk about it. L Former President Trump, who by the way is financially interested in LIV, said it was a billion dollar ad for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.They are just turning it down.
Roy said about 75 members of Congress attended the meeting, during which Norman spoke for about 20 minutes. Other lawmakers asked Norman about the impact this would have on the PGA Tour and his charity work, while others had “some interest in whether there was some sort of competitive issue and whether there there was interference or if the PGA Tour was blocking the competition.”
“It’s not pure competition,” Roy said. “Don’t come here and try to sell me something that’s not what you’re actually selling. You’re selling something that’s very close to the Saudis, so the Saudis can achieve their goal and Greg can achieve his. He always wanted to have a rival operation to undertake on the tour, and he was unable to do so until he had a billion dollar sugar daddy known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. .
The US Department of Justice has opened an investigation into whether the PGA Tour is illegally trying to crush the competition. The PGA Tour has denied the allegations.
LIV Golf and a handful of its players have also filed a federal antitrust complaint against the PGA Tour for suspending members for participating in LIV Golf events and for allegedly pressuring suppliers, broadcast networks, agents and others for not working with the new league.
The Washington Examiner reported Wednesday that Norman also met with top Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, including Jim Jordan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida, and told lawmakers he was willing to testify. before Congress to discuss antitrust issues.
ESPN confirmed Wednesday that Norman also met with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, and Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia. The Clyburn spokesman said lawmakers also recently met with PGA Tour executives.
“I am very encouraged that Mr. Norman offered to testify before the House Judiciary Committee during my discussion with him today,” Gaetz said in a statement to ESPN. “He has a wealth of knowledge about the role of golf in culture and in the world. I think the country would benefit from knowing more about his perspective.”
ESPN Senior Writers Michael Fletcher and Mark Fainaru-Wada contributed to this report.