Sports executives and athletes have sometimes defended themselves or put up with hours of anger. They occasionally apologized or asked for help. They shifted blame or used celebrities and childhood memories as charm attacks. In other cases, they lie, be vague, or simply say very little.
PGA Tour leaders are scheduled to meet a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday to discuss a surprise partnership between the circuit and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, but they are taking the time and pressure to face a sport-obsessed parliament. They have a menu of tried and tested options. What tactics they use could have a big impact on whether Tuesday’s trial turns out to be a debacle that grabs a day’s worth of headlines, or a debacle that invites far greater scrutiny. expensive.
“It would be wise to understand that the PGA isn’t calling them out to play patty cakes,” he said. said JC Watts, who served in Congress from 2003 to 2003. A member of the House Republican leadership.
“The voters at home understand sports, they understand 9/11,” Watts added, referring to longstanding accusations that Saudi agents were involved in the 2001 attacks. “This is a sport with a much deeper twist than normal hearing.”
With a long history when it comes to sports, quizzes and hoaxes and a looming parliamentary entry into golf’s fray seems certain after the tour ends, with Saudi wealth funds announcing a framework agreement on June 6. bottom. It has taken the form of two Senate inquiries, a House bill revoking the tour’s tax-exempt status, a request to the Justice and Treasury Departments to consider intervention, and a hearing before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation on Tuesday.
The lawsuit is the latest example of congressional interest in sports with mixed results. Legislators and their investigators unearthed information and sometimes brought about change in the sports world through legislation and the sheer force of the parliamentary pulpit.
“I think we need to clarify public policy objectives,” said Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia who helped lead the hearings on steroid use in baseball nearly 20 years ago. . Lawmakers see it as part of a national scourge. “That’s really what you have to do. It might be a health issue, or it might be a tax equity issue, but you need to clearly explain why Congress is involved.” Yes, and it’s a high threshold.”
Davis warned that sports hearings are “high-risk, high-reward, especially during times when Congress is not seen as productive.”
Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the subcommittee, said it was especially important for Congress to scrutinize sports because of their “central” role in American society. He suggested that the proposed Saudi role in golf was too much for parliament to ignore.
“There is a real national interest in this important and iconic American institution about to be taken over by one of the world’s most oppressive governments,” he said in an interview.
The subcommittee does not plan to hear any of the three witnesses originally sought on Tuesday. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monaghan has been on sick leave for nearly a month, but the Tour announced Friday that he will return next week. Wealth fund president Yasir Al Rumayyan and Saudi-backed LIV Golf League commissioner Greg Norman declined to attend, citing scheduling conflicts.
“Suffice it to say, this hearing is certainly not the last,” Blumenthal said. “If we reach a final agreement and it is in the national interest, we will hold a public hearing.”
After the announcement of Monaghan’s planned return to the tour, Blumenthal spokeswoman Maria McElwain said the subcommittee “will follow up with him on the remaining questions after Tuesday’s hearing.” .
But the PGA Tour wants to avoid testifying after Chief Operating Officer Ron Price appears in court on Tuesday. Although Price did not negotiate the deal announced last month, tour director James J. Dunn III, who initiated negotiations, is also expected to testify.
Price and Dunn may also be questioned over the weekend about Randall Stevenson’s resignation from tour officials for the first time in over a decade. In his resignation letter, former AT&T chief executive Stevenson expressed “serious concerns about how this framework agreement came about without the oversight of the board of directors.” He said the deal was “supportable in good faith,” especially since US intelligence officials concluded that the Saudi de facto ruler had authorized the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. ‘ added that it is not a thing.
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart, who has repeatedly testified before Congress, said, “If you’re not really nervous and nervous about making sure you’re ready, you’re probably ready. It means not,” he said. “It will undoubtedly be the worst night for witnesses.”
Golf has been largely absent from Congressional hearings. The leaders of the sport often operated behind closed doors in Washington, relying on a source of goodwill and kindness. When the Federal Trade Commission investigated golf antitrust issues in the 1990s, the tour faced significant threats before a pressure campaign from the Capitol derailed the investigation.
The public on the hill was more cheerful than before. For example, Arnold Palmer paid tribute to Dwight D. Eisenhower at the Joint Session of Congress, and Jack Nicklaus addressed a House committee on character education.
Other giants of professional sports didn’t have as much fun socializing in Washington either. Lawmakers have lashed out at everything from the college football bowl championship series (which then-senator President Biden called “like a fraudulent deal”) to sexual abuse, domestic violence and the NFL investigation into the Washington Commanders. I’ve researched everything.
But baseball has received a lot of congressional attention, as in 1958 when senators called hearings on exemptions from antitrust laws. (The New York Times later ran a headline, “Mr. Stengelies Confused Senators,” reporting that Yankees manager Casey Stengel “confused but made them laugh.”)
But despite all the hype and skepticism, cumulative pressure from Congress helped bring about radical changes in professional baseball.
The Senate subcommittee’s goals for golf are currently unknown.
“What good is this, other than the mug being in the news?” asked Davis, who represented former Commanders owner Daniel Snyder in a House probe after leaving Congress. “Will this deal be scrapped? Will this expose a Saudi conspiracy to enter and take over American golf?”
Wealth fund denies using sport to repair Saudi reputation as human rights abuser, instead diversifying Saudi economy and allowing Saudi Arabia to play a bigger role globally claimed to want to But the Saudi element could still help make the Senate inquiry more durable, as it gives Congress room to think beyond seemingly mundane sports issues.
“Usually when you talk about sports, you don’t have to talk about the 9/11 family, you don’t have to talk about the Pentagon, you don’t have to talk about Flight 93,” Watts said. “In this case, the only opposition that brings everyone together is Saudi money.”
Blumenthal said in an interview that Saudi Arabia’s history — which in an interview accused the Kingdom of being “actively complicit in terrorist activities, including 9/11” — is set for Tuesday’s hearing and unfolding. He suggested that he hoped it would be a central theme in the investigation.
The commission cannot unilaterally block progress on the deal, but shocking revelations and hurtful testimony will provoke outrage and, perhaps more consequentially, could do more to block the alliance. Members are well aware of the potential to provoke other parts of the federal government.
Tygart, the anti-doping chief, recalled meeting with a senator before the 2017 hearings, saying that even if the bill didn’t pass, the event would have sparked public debate. He stated that he understood exactly what could shape the
Tygart recalled the senator saying, “How much good can you get out of sitting in a chair under bright lights and squirming witnesses?”