GOLF

Where have you been, Arthur Ashe? LIV Tour golfers need you.

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Ah, the all-too-typical answer. Imagine Ashe saying the same thing when visiting Schwartzel’s homeland at the height of its racist depravity. Cynics claim no one has the upper hand, so it makes little sense to mix sport with politics and human rights – as, for example, Wimbledon did this year when it banned players Russians and Belarusians because of their nations’ war against Ukraine.

No one should accept this. Not when we’re talking about countries like Saudi Arabia, where “it’s state strategy” to use sport to hide its abusive rights record, said Adam Coogle, deputy director of the Middle Division. -East and North Africa to human rights. Look.

“Sportswashing,” as it is called, has long been an unfortunate fact of life. That’s why the Nazis hosted the 1936 Olympics, and China hosted the Summer Games in 2008 and the Winter Games in 2022. Vladimir V. Putin used sporting success to make Russia a respectable member of the international community and a global force. Now we know the cost.

The Saudis are still new to this type of high-stakes mirage-making, but under Prince Mohammed’s de facto rule since 2016, they are making up for lost time with sports and entertainment. Hence the hosting of Formula 1 races and professional wrestling and football matches. Last year they bought Premier League football club Newcastle United. Today, they are turning to golf, a sport loved by business leaders and politicians. In other words, the kind of people whose decisions directly affect the Desert Kingdom.

In the meantime, repression remains a fact of daily life for Saudis. Saudi citizens do not enjoy the right to freedom of assembly and association. The judiciary is not independent. Due process is a farce. “There’s a total lockdown on free speech,” Coogle told me, speaking about Jordan last week on the phone. Saudis, he said, “have no right to express any criticism” of the country’s leaders.

To criticize, Coogle pointed out, is to risk detention, torture or death.

“With the rise to power of young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he promised an embrace of social and economic reform,” Khashoggi wrote in 2017. “He talked about making our country more open and tolerant.”

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