After much peddling, LIV Golf finally found a network willing to look past its ties to Saudi Arabia in favor of giving the highly controversial league a TV deal.
On Thursday, LIV officially signed a multi-year TV partnership with Nexstar’s CW Network. Shortly after the announcement, the National Press Club issued a scorching statement, slamming Nexstar, the country’s largest TV ownership group and parent company of the CW, for partnering with a professional golf tour backed by Saudi Arabia.
“We are deeply disappointed that a company that makes money from news like Nexstar would agree to participate in such a shameful PR stunt as LIV Golf, which is fundamentally designed to rehabilitate the Saudi reputation, tarnished irreparably by the state-ordered gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018. We are left to wonder what if anything Nexstar stands for. You cannot have a brand in news and act this way. Saudi Arabia murdered a Washington Post journalist,” the statement reads.
LIV Golf is financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Considering the Saudi royal family’s known human rights abuses, along with the government’s complicity in the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, LIV has been widely viewed as a tool to help sportswash the Saudi reputation. Khashoggi was assassinated by agents of the Saudi government, allegedly under orders from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also chairman of the Public Investment Fund which finances LIV.
“Riyadh (capital of Saudi Arabia) wants to use golf to get Americans to forget about murder. We must not let them get away with it,” the National Press Club continued. “We call on Nexstar employees — many of whom are journalists — to demand management explain why they have partnered with the murderers of a journalist. We urge Nexstar to do the right thing and cancel their bloody golf show. And if they don’t drop the program here is what we can do: don’t watch it; and write each sponsor asking them not to sponsor.”
In September, LIV CEO Greg Norman claimed they were speaking to “four different networks” and receiving “enormous” interest regarding a potential TV deal. Despite Norman’s claim, LIV’s options always seemed limited, with CBS, NBC and ESPN each having deals with the PGA Tour. Ultimately, it was Nexstar and the CW who were willing to partner with LIV amid its controversial reputation as an ambassador to the Saudi royal family.
[National Press Club; photo of a LIV event in October from Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports]