GOLF

Saudi golf firm LIV has quietly tapped a global PR titan

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The arrangement illustrates just how much LIV Golf has been able to rely on institutions and establishment professionals, even amid a controversial tour rollout that has rocked professional golf and captured the attention of lawmakers. in Washington. Ari Fleischer, who was Bush’s White House press secretary, did public relations work for LIV, and former President Donald Trump offered his own endorsement of the tour – hosting an event at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ, end of July. Trump National Doral will also host the tour in October.

In recent months, the tour has created a schism in the golfing world, as a number of major PGA players have decamped to LIV Golf, lured by big cash prizes and other perks. He has also faced a barrage of allegations of ‘sportwashing’, or using sport to boost his reputation, amid a wave of criticism over his human rights record. In July, months after Edelman’s work ended, the National Press Club explicitly called on public relations firms to reject Saudi “blood money” and refrain from accepting a contract with LIV Golf.

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Edelman, one of the nation’s largest public relations firms, has worked for the PGA Tour in the past, which declined to comment for this story.

According to Justice Department records, Edelman did not register as an agent for LIV Golf under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires certain disclosures for entities and persons making connections. public for a foreign principal. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) called on the DOJ to investigate LIV Golf and potential FARA violations around the tour.

In a statement, Kate Meissner, spokeswoman for Edelman, said the company currently has no relationship with LIV Golf. However, she confirmed that United Entertainment Group was signed up by Performance54 for a project last year which has since ended. Meissner argued that the project did not fall within FARA’s requirements.

Asked about the details of the project, she said the company had “confidentiality commitments with all of our customers and was unable to share specific information”.

Earlier this year, Edelman signed a contract with the Saudi Ministry of Culture, for which the company offered a PR campaign filled with celebrities and influencers – including actress Priyanka Chopra and DJ Steve Aoki – for sell a positive image of Saudi Arabia. Edelman is also registered to represent the Saudi Data Artificial Intelligence Agency.

In an interview, Bill McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club, stressed that Edelman does not need the Saudi firm and reiterated his group’s call for all public relations firms to refrain from working with LIV Golf.

“This suggests that the lives and health of journalists are not a major concern for the PR firm,” he said. “It is quite obvious that this is an intentional activity, designed to rehabilitate the Saudi reputation after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

US intelligence has confirmed that senior Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, were responsible for the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter.

Edelman isn’t the only major PR firm to have worked for a Saudi golf client.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies, which is registered to represent the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information, was part of the tournament press team for the February 2022 Saudi International Tournament, which is not a LIV event. In an email obtained by POLITICO, a Hill+Knowlton employee offered travel and accommodation assistance for a journalist.

Hill+Knowlton did not return a request for comment.

In recent weeks, controversy surrounding the LIV golf series has intensified after a number of family members of 9/11 victims urged Trump to cancel the tournament scheduled at his New Jersey golf club. They noted that Trump had previously blamed Saudi Arabia for the terrorist attacks and that it was “incomprehensible to us that a former President of the United States would reject our loved ones for personal financial gain.”

Edelman CEO Richard Edelman also spoke about the scars from the September 11 attacks on the company. In his reflection on the September 11, 2001 attacks, he said the company had lost a former employee who had worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in the Twin Towers and that the company was “deeply involved in the revival of the neighborhood and the reestablishment of normalcy”.

He also noted that the company worked for five years to explain to the public how the neighborhood was rebuilt, handled public relations for the opening of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and volunteered its time to help introduce the center.

“I take comfort in knowing that this terrible day brought out the best in Edelman, our willingness to offer comfort in the terrible days that followed, our ability to provide accurate information so that downtown of Manhattan can rebuild, our insistence on the truth during the insurance trial, and our pro bono assistance in launching the 9/11 Memorial and Museum so that future generations will know the story,” Edelman added.

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