In the news this week, Tiger Woods turned down an offer from the Saudi government of $2.3 million to play in the European Tour’s upcoming Saudi International golf tournament.
Whether the rejection is based on scheduling conflicts or the like, or whether Woods is making a moral statement is not known.
But one thing is clear. The rejection is a blow to the prestige of a tournament the Saudi government uses to glorify its image worldwide. And that needs to happen more often now.
Since 32-year-old prince Mohammed bin Salman assumed power in the family-owned and operated country, he has acted in alarming ways not only inside his own country, but beyond its borders.
He directed the kidnapping of a foreign head of state, the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri a year ago.
Only after intense international pressure was Hariri was allowed to return to Lebanon
He is waging a brutally destructive proxy war in Yemen, creating a humanitarian crisis of unconscionable proportion.
And last month he had American resident and Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi murdered for the crime of writing dissenting articles, violating the national sovereignty of Turkey in the process.
MBS, as he is called, is acting like a Mafia don. The Khashoggi murder was to be his message that if you oppose me, no matter where you are, we will find you and … . You fill in the blank.
Also in October, the Saudi government held an international investment conference, from which executives from Uber, JPMorgan, management giants BlackRock and Blackstone Group, Google, Bloomberg, Financial Times, CNN, The New York Times, Economist, CNBC, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, AOL cofounder Steve Case, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and U.S. Treausury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, backed out of attending following the Khashoggi murder. Virgin Group headed by Richard Branson backed out of a $1 billion dollar deal.
And Tiger Woods said “no”. My hat is off to him.
Not so much to European Tour CEO Keith Pelley, who said the Saudi tournament would go on as scheduled, certainly a public relations coup for the Saudis and an embarrassment for European golf.
It remains to be seen who shows up, if anybody.