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BEDMINSTER, N.J. — The traveling circus that is Saudi LIV Golf has arrived in the biggest of big tops, the one owned by The Former Guy, Donald Trump. He is supposed to show up Thursday to play in the pro-am, then lend his world-renowned reputation for credibility, honesty, class and dignity to try to make something out of nothing over three days of exhibition-style, no-cut, low-energy, mostly no-name golf.
LIV Golf and Trump, paired together, a match made in, well, somewhere. What could possibly go wrong?
Let’s ask Paul Casey, the 45-year-old, five-time European Ryder Cup veteran who walked into Wednesday’s press conference with a solid reputation as a glib guy who never met a question he didn’t like and left as Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman’s new favorite sports washer.
When LIV golfers meet the press, they should know by now what’s coming: questions about leaving their old jobs on the PGA Tour for new jobs taking millions from the Saudi government's Public Investment Fund, which is controlled by MBS, who sanctioned the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to human rights organizations and U.S. intelligence agencies.
They also have been asked about the fact that Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis, all the more fitting this week since Ground Zero is just an hour’s drive from Trump National Golf Club, and 9/11 families have been relentless in reminding us, rightly so, of the connection.
So far, the Phil Mickelsons and Dustin Johnsons of the world have failed miserably to substantially answer any question and instead have fallen back on how they are working to grow the game of golf and make the world a better place for golfers or other important people.
In that vein, I thought Casey might have a thought or two about using the platform he has been given on the Saudi payroll to influence MBS and his cronies by speaking out to help Saudi women and the LGBTQ community.
“As you know, gay people are subject to capital punishment, and women’s rights obviously are way behind men’s rights. … Would you speak out right now on those issues?”
This is how Casey answered. He said he played golf with a 17-year-old girl in a pro-am at the Saudi Invitational earlier this year, and played with “another lady who’s a human rights lawyer.” Casey said the 17-year-old told him things have “radically changed for her and her family” since she took up golf in the last couple of years.
Ah, the magic of golf. Hit a few golf balls and centuries of oppression evaporate, at least for one young woman. MBS couldn’t have said it better himself.
And how about LGBTQ rights?
“It’s not a subject I know enough about to speak about,” Casey said.
Veteran Jason Kokrak, 37, was sitting next to Casey. “Yeah, I agree with Paul. I don’t know enough about the subject to speak on it, but I also got to play with that young girl — was she 15 or 17?”
That was the banter, verbatim, between two professional golfers, world travelers both, who have lived for a total of 82 years yet have absolutely no idea how to say anything even remotely meaningful about the plight of women and LGBTQ people in Saudi Arabia.
After the press conference, Casey was surrounded by a knot of reporters who had more questions for him. One came from NorthJersey.com, wondering about the 9/11 families’ criticism of LIV Golf.
“My heart goes out to all of those who suffered a loss and been impacted by 9/11,” Casey said. “I don’t have words to describe the pain and sadness behind that, I’ve gotta go do a photo shoot.”
Ah, priorities. How convenient that Casey’s are now aligned completely with MBS’s. As he left the sad thought of the 9/11 families in mid-sentence and went to get his picture taken, his once-good name and reputation exited with him.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LIV golfers destroy their reputations to sports wash for MBS