Legendary golf champ Tiger Woods declined a nearly $1 billion deal to play in a controversial new tournament circuit bankrolled by Saudi Arabia, the CEO of the operation has told The Washington Post.
Norman said that both Woods and Jack Nicklaus, who he claimed was offered some $100 million, rejected the deals because neither wanted to jeopardize what the Post called “generational legacies.”
Woods — who is already one of the world’s few athlete billionaires, according to Forbes — could not immediately be reached for comment.
The LIV Golf tour venture has been slammed as a “sportswashing” operation aimed at boosting the reputation of Saudi Arabia amid human rights violations and the 2018 slaying and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. American intelligence determined that Khashoggi’s killing was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Mickelson said the Saudis are “scary motherfuckers to get involved with” during an interview earlier this year with journalist Alan Shipnuck, his unauthorized biographer.
“We know they killed Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it?” Mickelson asked. “Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Mickelson took a golf break this year in the wake of his comments, but he’s now in the inaugural tournament of the LIV Golf Invitational Series in London.
Mickelson was promoting the tournament at a press conference on Thursday when guards ejected Shipnuck, who was there to confront the golfer again.
But other reporters pressed Mickelson about his participation. “Ultimately, you could be seen as a Saudi stooge,” one said.
Here's a snippet of video of @AlanShipnuck getting removed from Phil Mickelson's post-round interview this evening at the LIV event outside of London. Not shown: one of the security guards twice putting hands on Alan, who on both occasions said, "Do not touch me." Video by @CNNhttps://t.co/zQRTKfUNwdpic.twitter.com/r5jj0ysibe
— Fire Pit Collective (@firepitstories) June 9, 2022
The PGA Tour on Thursday indefinitely suspended all 17 golfers in the LIV circuit from its tour, including Mickelson, who reportedly made the switch for $200 million.
Sponsors have also dropped some of the golfers who have joined the LIV circuit.
PGA Tour suspends current and future LIV players. pic.twitter.com/lKhxo27Ida
— Eamon Lynch (@eamonlynch) June 9, 2022
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.