As the controversial Saudi-funded LIV golf league plays its first U.S. tournament later this week near Portland, Oregon, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland confirmed on Monday. to USA TODAY Sports that her husband, Keith, a veteran golf TV producer, is “a contractor for LIV.”
Asked about her husband’s role at LIV Golf, Hirshland, who has led the USOPC for nearly four years and is considered the highest ranked woman in American sports, texted:
“I can confirm that he is a contractor for LIV. Beyond that, I will not comment on my husband’s employment, or speak on his behalf. We are both professionals who have taken and will continue to make individual career decisions. In 2022, I hope women will not be defined by their husband’s career.
She continued, “In my role as CEO of the USOPC and a supporter of the Olympic and Paralympic movements, I am committed to upholding the ideals of the Olympic values. I will always defend sport as a path to peace and understanding between communities and cultures. It’s my aim.
Keith Hirshland did not respond to a message Sunday night seeking comment.
Over the past month, PGA Tour defection news for extraordinary sums of Saudi money – $200 million for Phil Mickelson, for example – rocked men’s golf and became mainstream sports history.
In addition to Mickelson, big names such as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau left for LIV Golf’s huge paydays and 54-hole non-cut tournaments.
The new tour has also attracted broadcasters Arlo White, former NBC Sports Premier League announcer and longtime Golf Channel reporter Jerry Foltz, LIV Golf announced earlier this month. Tournaments are not available on live or cable television, but are streamed on the LIV Golf website as well as YouTube and Facebook.
LIV Golf spokespersons have received multiple emails from USA TODAY Sports over the past few weeks requesting Keith Hirshland’s role with their broadcast team, including Monday, but declined to confirm his employment or role or title. specific.
LIV Golf is funded by the Saudi Government’s Public Investment Fund, which is controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. MBS, as it is known, sanctioned the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to human rights organizations and US intelligence agencies.
Various individuals and groups, including Khashoggi’s fiancée, a 9/11 Families Organization and US Senator Ron Wyden, D.-Ore., criticized of the involvement of American golfers in the Saudi adventure.
“They’re helping the Saudi regime ‘sportswash’ their reputation in exchange for tens of millions of dollars,” Terry Strada, national president of 9/11 Families United, said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports on June 13. the commissioner said on Sunday, “one would have to live under a rock” not to understand the implications of getting involved with the Saudis.
Osama bin Laden and 15 of the September 19 11 hijackers were Saudis.
In a June 16 phone interview, USA TODAY Sports asked Wyden what he would tell Mickelson about his involvement with the Saudis.
“I would just say that’s wrong,” Wyden said. “I went to school on a basketball scholarship. I believe deeply in the role of sport in promoting goodwill. I would say to Mr. Mickelson that you can do better than that. You can be much better than that, you’re clearly going to have plenty of opportunities to win some very large sums of money, but you can do it in a way that doesn’t reward those with bloodstained hands.
On April 25, the mayors of 11 Oregon towns near Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, the site of this week’s LIV golf tournament, wrote a letter expressing similar concerns.
“We oppose this event because it is sponsored by a repressive government whose human rights abuses are documented,” the mayors said. “We refuse to support these abuses by complicitly allowing the Saudi-backed organization to play in our backyard.”
According to LIV Golf, players in this week’s tournament will play for $25 million in prize money. Earlier this month, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan suspended 17 golfers who left the tour to play in the inaugural LIV golf tournament in London.
“The PGA Tour, an American institution, cannot compete with a foreign monarchy spending billions of dollars trying to buy the game of golf,” Monahan said last week. “We welcome good and healthy competition. The Saudi Golf League LIV is not that. It is an irrational threat, which does not care about return on investment or true growth of the game.”
Contributor: Tom Schad, Associated Press