MAPA and the Raytheon Antiwar Campaign Protest Saudi Arabia at the U.S. Open

Peace Advocate July 2022

Protester at U.S. Open, photographed by Brian Garvey

by Brian Garvey

So what on Earth do Saudi Arabia and the war in Yemen have to do with professional golf and the U.S. Open? It has everything to do with “sportswashing”, the practice of using sports to improve a tarnished reputation, which is exactly what Saudi Arabia is trying to do by getting into the game of pro golf.

On June 18th, activists gathered outside of the U.S. Open, one of professional golf’s most prestigious tournaments which just so happened to be held in Brookline, Massachusetts this year. To raise awareness about the crimes of Saudi Arabia the activists stood at the entrance to the Country Club in Brookline, MA holding banners that said “Saudi Money is Blood Money,” “Saudi Arabia Kills Journalists and Kids in Yemen,” and “Thank you PGA Golfers who said no. No Amount of Money is worth your soul.” The reaction from spectators was very positive with many saying “we’re with you!” and “**** the LIV tour!” 

The controversial LIV golf tour is a rival golf league paid for by the Saudi Arabian monarchy. The new Saudi-backed tour has angered the Professional Golfers’ Association, the PGA, so much so that they have suspended 17 golfers who decided to join LIV, including stars like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. Both men are being paid over $100 million by Saudi Arabia to participate in the LIV tour. This has led to comments from sportscasters and fans who aren’t necessarily political.

Renowned sportscaster Bob Costas commented on the subject saying, “This is Saudi blood money,” asking Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, “what’s the price for your soul? What’s the price for integrity?” 

There are good reasons to ask these questions. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy with connections to international terrorism. It has an abysmal human rights record, both at home and abroad. The Saudi government was found to be responsible for the murder of a Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. According to a U.S. Intelligence report, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had Khashoggi killed to shut him up, to stop him from criticizing the ongoing genocidal war in Yemen, a war that has killed almost 400,000 people, mostly civilian women and children.

This conversation is happening at a key moment, with President Joe Biden having just announced a presidential trip to Saudi Arabia (a major reversal of his Administration’s policy), a fragile ceasefire in place in Yemen, and a War Powers Resolution introduced in Congress to end U.S. participation in that illegal war.

What’s going on in professional golf right now is a symbol for something much larger. It’s not just professional golfers who are tossing ethics aside for a big payday. It’s the U.S. at large. The United States of America should not be in bed with murderers because they have oil or because they buy billions of dollars in American weapons. The fact that Saudi Arabia can buy some top golfers cannot be used to hide their war crimes. Their oil and money can’t be used to blind us. This country should not be an ally of the United States.

On Labor Day weekend this issue is coming up again as the Saudi LIV Golf tour will be coming to Bolton, Massachusetts. MAPA and the Raytheon Antiwar Campaign will be there again, this time to protest Saudi sportswashing directly. Click here to sign up and to learn about other upcoming opportunities to oppose the war in Yemen and the US-Saudi alliance.

Brian Garvey is Assistant Director of Massachusetts Peace Action. He is also an active member of the Raytheon Antiwar Campaign.