Vladimir Putin would get my vote for his disgusting genocidal rampage through Ukraine.
But even he’s getting better press than golf superstar Phil Mickelson, who’s become sport’s No. 1 whipping boy for choosing to play in the new Saudi-backed breakaway LIV tournament.
The attacks on Mickelson reached a nadir over the weekend when he was accused of “betraying” the victims of America’s worst-ever terror attack.
Terry Strada, chair of 9/11 Families United, a support group for those who lost loved ones in the appalling September 11 atrocities, wrote a furious public letter to Mickelson — and his fellow renegades including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Kevin Na — saying he’d “sold out” the September 11 dead and insulted their memories.
Strada raged: “This is a betrayal not only of us, but of all your countrymen.”
It’s hard to think of a more damning accusation to make against any American.
When Mickelson was asked for his response, he said: “I think I speak for pretty much every American in that we feel the deepest of sympathy and the deepest of empathy for those that have lost loved ones, friends in 9/11. It affected all of us, and those that have been directly affected I think — I can’t emphasize enough how much empathy I have for them.”
But that just prompted another rebuke from Strada: “Phil knows exactly what he’s doing, and he and his fellow LIV golfers should be ashamed. They are helping the Saudi regime ‘sportswash’ their reputation in return for tens of millions of dollars, at the very same time our government is rolling out more damning evidence of Saudi culpability in the 9/11 attacks.”
I understand Strada’s anger.
Her husband, Tom, was a partner at Cantor Fitzgerald and perished on the 104th floor of the North Tower.
I would feel the same if my spouse had been killed by Osama bin Laden’s suicide bombers.
But Phil Mickelson had nothing to do with 9/11, and I’m sure his sentiments toward the victims are entirely genuine.
He’s condemned the Saudis’ appalling human rights record and admitted they’re “scary motherf–kers” in a now-infamous confession to a golf writer, but he doesn’t think that should stop him from doing business with the Kingdom, just as he’s plied his trade all over the world for three decades, often in places with very dodgy human rights records.
As such, he’s no different from every president of the United States, though when it comes to Saudi Arabia, the presidential hypocrisy runs a little deeper.
For example, Joe Biden was so morally outraged about the 2018 murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was ambushed by a hit squad at the Saudi consulate in Turkey, suffocated, and then cut into pieces with bone saws, that during a Democratic candidate debate the following year, he declared: “We were going to make them (Saudi Arabia) pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.”
One of the first things Biden did after winning the presidency last November was approve the sale of 280 air-to-air missiles worth $650 million … to Saudi Arabia.
And next month, he will hold his nose again and travel to Riyadh to kiss the oil-pumping ring of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and beg him to produce more of the black stuff to bring down surging gas prices across the US.
That’s despite US intelligence recently stating the Saudi leader personally approved Khashoggi’s assassination.
Apparently, the US has decided to “move on” from the sickening murder to “pursue warmer relations” with the Saudis amid a growing global economic meltdown.
Frankly, there’s no other sensible option.
The cold, hard reality is that Saudi Arabia remains America’s second-largest trading partner and one of its most important strategic allies, developing a security alliance against joint threats like Iran.
“I’m not going to change my view on human rights,” Biden said last week, defending his relationship with the Saudis. “But as president of the United States, my job is to bring peace if I can.”
And if the US government is happy to do big business with the Saudis, why shouldn’t an American citizen like Phil Mickelson be allowed to?
Then there’s the stinking hypocrisy of his critics in the sports world.
PGA boss Jay Monahan has banned all the LIV players from his tour, and when asked about the 9/11 families’ complaint, told CBS: “I would ask any player who has left [the PGA Tour] or any player who would ever consider leaving, ‘Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?’”
Mr. Monahan seems to have severe amnesia.
Last year, he allowed Mickelson and the LIV renegades to all play in the lucrative Saudi International tournament so long as they agreed to play in his AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am once over the next two years.
In other words, his issue about Saudi Arabia wasn’t about morality, but money.
The European Tour, whose bosses have expressed indignance similar to Monahan’s over the LIV tour, has taken Saudi money to stage tournaments there for the past few years.
And what about the PGA’s business dealings with China?
As with the NBA, whose star player LeBron James has led basketball’s own shameless sports-washing, it’s had no problem raking in billions in Chinese cash, and holding an annual tour event there, while not saying a condemnatory word about the totalitarian regime’s horrific human rights abuses like ongoing suppression of Uyghur Muslims.
Nor does the PGA have any problem with its major sponsors like FedEx, UPS and RBC, and golf manufacturers like Ping, Titleist, Nike and Callaway, all doing huge business in China and throughout the UAE including Saudi Arabia.
This whole “sports-washing” issue is riddled with rampant hypocrisy.
FIFA, the top global football (OK, “soccer”) association, constantly bangs on about celebrating diversity and tolerance, and has been doing so again during Pride Month, but the same FIFA has sold its coveted World Cup to Qatar, where it’s illegal to be gay and where workers’ and women’s rights are just as dreadful.
It’s the same two-faced virtue-signaling bulls–t we’ve seen with Disney, which goes to war in Florida over LGBT rights but simultaneously streams content to many anti-gay countries.
Phil Mickelson’s no saint. By his own admission, he’s got a massive gambling problem, and has said some very clumsy things about this whole furor for which he’s apologized.
But he’s an American sporting legend who’s done more than anyone other than Tiger Woods to make modern golf a hugely popular and financially rewarding game, and by taking paychecks from a country with a terrible human rights record, he’s no worse than his president, or most other leading US sportsmen and companies including his previous employers at the PGA.
So I suggest his hypocritical critics take their cracked halos and shove them up their sanctimonious backsides.