Another day, another lawsuit in the ongoing battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.
LIV Golf and three of its players are currently suing the PGA Tour for antitrust violations, and on Wednesday night the Tour responded to and countersued the upstart circuit – led by Greg Norman and backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – with some charges of its own.
While LIV alleges the Tour uses monopoly power and illegally suspended players, the Tour’s countersuit claims LIV is using players, “and the game of golf to sportswash the recent history of Saudi atrocities and to further the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s Vision 2030 initiatives.”
From the countersuit:
“Indeed, a key component of LIV’s strategy has been to intentionally induce Tour members to breach their Tour agreements and play in LIV events while seeking to maintain their Tour memberships and play in marquee Tour events like The Players Championship and the FedEx Cup Playoffs, so LIV can free ride off the Tour and its platform.
“LIV has openly sought to damage the Tour’s business relationships with its members by inducing them to breach their contractual requirements, even going so far as to pay members’ legal fees to make breaching their contracts with Tour more enticing.”
Eleven LIV players were part of the original lawsuit on Aug. 3 before Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Hudson Swafford and Talor Gooch asked to be removed on Tuesday, joining Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Pat Perez and Jason Kokrak, who all previously removed their names. LIV Golf, who joined the suit in an amended complaint filed Aug. 27., and just three players remain: Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein.
“The Player Plaintiffs that have remained in the case,” the argument reads, “want only to enrich themselves in complete disregard of the promises they made to the Tour and its members when they joined the Tour.”
“LIV, by its own admission, has succeeded in attracting numerous elite professional golfers to participate in its new league. LIV has held numerous events with full fields and has announced a full season for 2023. Both LIV and the Player Plaintiffs baked the financial cost of their suspensions into LIV’s exorbitant signing bonuses, making the Player Plaintiffs whole,” the document states. “Moreover, while LIV and the Player Plaintiffs challenge the Tour’s media rights and conflicting events policies as anticompetitive, LIV imposes similar – indeed far more restrictive – conditions on its players, and the Player Plaintiffs have agreed to them.
“This case is not about unfair competition – if anyone is competing unfairly, it is LIV, not the Tour. Instead, it is a cynical effort to avoid competition and to free ride off of the Tour’s investment in the development of professional golf. Plaintiffs’ allegations are baseless and entirely without legal merit.”
The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating the Tour for its actions in combatting LIV.