Bedminster, NJ – Charles Barkley has a question for people who wonder why anyone would associate with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour: Why aren’t they outraged by all the other American companies doing business with the same controversial asset management fund that oversees it. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia?
“You can’t pick and choose who you want to be mad at,” Barkley said Thursday, noting some of the companies the fund has invested in. “They should be mad at Berkshire Hathaway, Tesla, Bank of America, Disney. But they are not. They are just crazy about these golfers. “
At least that’s Barkley’s view, and the view pushed by many people working in the new separatist tour, which is causing so much turmoil in golf, sports and US-Saudi relations. For some, the Tour is more of a live cash cow, offering huge guaranteed money to lure golfers away from the established PGA Tour. To others, it’s a cynical attempt by the Saudi prince to use sports as a way to clean up his government’s poor global record of human rights abuses.
Barkley, never one to shy away from controversy, was in the middle of it all Thursday, along with former president and tournament host Donald Trump.
On a steamy day at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, which hosts the third LIV Golf event on Friday, Barkley sweated through questions about his potential inclusion on the tour, then teed off 18 holes in the pro-am tournament.
For now, Barkley, a former basketball star and widely popular hoops commentator on the TNT sports network, is the tournament’s only guest. He has been in informal talks with Greg Norman, CEO of the LIV Series, about joining as a commentator. But he said no formal offer had been made and he set a Friday deadline to make the tour.
“When I wake up in the morning, if they haven’t said anything, I’ll say, ‘Guys, I’ll play in your pro-am whenever you want, if I’m available. But I’m going to go back to my job.’ I love my job and I don’t think it’s fair to keep them.”
The tour has already had David Feherty, a former NBC golf analyst, join him on the live broadcast. He doesn’t even have a television contract yet. But Barkley, who has been widely admired for his rolling, raw, comedic approach to basketball analysis but has also been criticized for making sexist jokes about women, would be a huge boon to the new golf tour.
He said he has three years left on his contract with TNT, and it would take a huge amount of money to leave.
“I’m probably going to lose all my sponsors and everything, so they have to be worth my time,” he said. “But if they don’t, I’m still going to support these guys.”
Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series
New series. The launch of the new Saudi-sponsored LIV Golf Series has reignited long-standing questions about the athletes’ moral obligations and their desire to compete and earn money. Here’s what you need to know:
The reason he will lose sponsors is that Barkley, who loves golf, could face a backlash if he officially joins the LIV tour in some capacity. He is one of many people criticized for joining, considering joining or simply liking the LIV Tour, a team golf concept funded by the Prince Mohammed Foundation.
The prince is a sinister figure for many people around the world, especially after US intelligence officials found that he approved the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government.
In addition, the families of some of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks believe that the Saudi Arabian government supported the terrorists prior to their actions. They were planning a protest at the tournament on Friday. Barkley didn’t deny the pain and betrayal they were going through, but he questioned why it was all focused on the golf tour.
When other companies that do business with the Saudis return money to the fund, he said, then it’s only fair to criticize the Gophers.
“I can sympathize with the families of 9/11,” Barkley said. “They have a right to their opinion.”
Barkley also said it’s naive to think Saudi Arabia is the only bad actor as a nation, citing the United States’ record of human rights abuses.
Barkley said all countries were guilty of “horrible” acts.
“It’s not like America has a great civil rights record, okay? If you want to be selectively angry. I love America. It is the largest country in the world. But don’t act like we’re not doing our part and we’re still doing our part. Let’s get rid of this.”
When he finished answering the questions, Barkley joined the foursome, which also included professional golfers Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Jeffrey Zakarian, a celebrity chef. Barkley being Barkley, there were plenty of laughs.
“Charles is such a good-natured, good-natured guy, and he doesn’t take anything too seriously,” Zakarian said. “And it’s a lot of fun to play with.”
On one hole, Barkley alerted two people on an approaching golf cart to alert him to Zakarian’s impending tee shot. When it was Barkley’s turn to shoot, he pointed out that the cart was behind him to avoid a potential foul on him, but didn’t move for Zakarian. His group burst into laughter.
“It’s okay,” Barkley told the driver. “I’m not sensitive.”
He also discussed basketball, noting that Kevin Durant would stay with the Brooklyn Nets and form a big lineup with Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons.
“They might have the best team in the world right now,” he said. “Kyrie will have something to prove because he knows if he goes out and is stubborn all year, he’s not going to get a big contract next year.”
Like the Rebel Golf Tour, most sports are about money.