Despite its controversial relationship with Saudi Arabia, LIV Golf finally landed an American TV deal with Nexstar’s CW. After the partnership was announced on Thursday, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman joined Dan Abrams Live on NewsNation to discuss the partnership.
“This was a critical move for us,” Norman told Abrams. “It was one of the principal moves we always targeted right from the outset. And when you think about where we were in 2022 as the beta season nine months ago to where we are today, we were probably the fastest to ever get to a network deal with CW than any other sports league in history.”
There have been other sports leagues with much less star power than LIV Golf, such as the XFL and Alliance of American Football League, which landed TV deals before launching their inaugural season. LIV Golf played its entire first season without an American TV partnership and ultimately settled for a revenue-sharing deal with CW.
“Our platform speaks for itself, our format speaks for itself so the marriage between CW and LIV getting in front of 120 million households speaks for itself quite honestly,” Norman continued. “They see the value in it and we see the value in them and they weren’t the only one, we had multiple other bidders.”
Last September, Norman claimed LIV was talking to four different networks and receiving “enormous” interest regarding a potential TV deal. LIV’s options always seemed limited, however, with CBS, NBC, and ESPN already having deals with the PGA Tour. And for networks without PGA deals, there was always going to be just hesitancy in partnering with LIV considering the league is financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Since its inception, LIV has been criticized for being used by Saudi Arabia to help sportswash their known human rights abuses. LIV and its participants are viewed as ambassadors to the Saudi government which in addition to being human rights offenders, was complicit in the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Last May, Norman abhorrently referred to Khashoggi’s assassination as a “mistake.”
“The whole thing about Saudi Arabia and Khashoggi and human rights… talk about it, but also talk about the good the country is doing in changing its culture. Look, we’ve all made mistakes. And you just want to learn by those mistakes. And you just want to learn by those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward,” Norman said in 2022.
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. Thursday night, Abrams asked Norman if the Saudis have learned from their “mistakes.”
“I think everybody learns from their mistakes,” Norman answered.
“But have the Saudis?” Abrams asked again.
“Yes, I do,” Norman said. “From what I’m seeing, before this role of being CEO of LIV Golf Investments, I’ve been over there building a golf course in Saudi Arabia. This is way before any of this whohaha erupted. I was over there for a reason because they see the value that golf is a force for good and it’s proving out in their country today so I’m continually building golf courses over there. Golf diplomacy is something that I’ve been extremely passionate about…So if we can use golf as a platform to grow a country, improve a country, fantastic. Hallelujah.”
Norman’s answer offered absolutely no support to his claim that the Saudis have learned from their “mistakes,” and his decision to tout golf, a sport known for its history of elitist exclusivity, as having the ability to “grow a country” rooted in human rights abuses is a highly questionable take.