The so-called Saudi Golf League is not going down without a fight.
This afternoon, Greg Norman – the former world No.1 and chief executive of LIV Golf Investments which is understood to be leading plans for a new breakaway circuit – has taken the extraordinary step of publicly calling out the PGA Tour and its commissioner Jay Monahan.
Norman, 67, has published an open letter to Monahan in which he accuses him of “being unfair” and “likely… in violation of the law”.
Whilst it has not yet been formally announced, the so-called Saudi Golf League has reportedly been sounding out the game’s top players with a view to recruiting them for their rumoured new venture.
Those moves have intensified in recent weeks, during which time most of the top players committed themselves to the PGA Tour, with suggestions of sanctions and bans for those who do defect the talk of the driving range.
Norman, though, is refusing to let matters go and, today, went public with a letter to Monahan titled: “You Can’t Ban Players From Playing Golf.”
Norman wrote: “As has been widely reported, you have threatened the players on the PGA Tour, all of whom are independent contractors, with lifetime bans if they decide to play golf in a league sponsored by anyone other than the Tour.
“For decades, I have fought for the rights of players to enjoy a career in which they are rewarded fully and properly for their efforts. They are one-in-a-million athletes. Yet for decades, the Tour has put its own financial ambitions ahead of the players, and every player on the tour knows it. The Tour is the Players Tour not your administration’s Tour. Why do you call the crown jewel in all tournaments outside the Majors “The Players Championship” and not “The Administration’s Championship?”
“But when you try to bluff and intimidate players by bullying and threatening them, you are guilty of going too far, being unfair, and you likely are in violation of the law.
“Simply put, you can’t ban players from playing golf. Players have the right and the freedom to play where we like. I know for a fact that many PGA players were and still are interested in playing for a new league, in addition to playing for the Tour. What is wrong with that?
“What is wrong with allowing players to make their own decisions about where to play and how often to play? What is so wrong with player choice? Why do you feel so threatened that you would resort to such a desperate, unwise, and unenforceable threat?”
The Australian golf icon went on to quote a recent article attributed to the former chief lawyer to the Federal Trade Commission, which noted that “imposing a lifetime ban on players would trigger a slam-dunk antitrust lawsuit by Norman’s upstart league, the players, or even federal antitrust enforcers who have made it a priority to protect workers’ ability to ply their trade for whomever they please without interference from corporate giants.”
Norman concluded: “Competition in all aspects of life, sport, and business is healthy and the players deserve to be well compensated, which is why so many players have expressed an interest in playing in a new league.
“But when you threaten to end players’ careers and when you engage in unfair labor practices with your web of player restrictions, you demonstrate exactly why players are open minded about joining a league that treats players well, respects them, and compensates them according to their true worth.
“Commissioner – this is just the beginning. It certainly is not the end.”