Saudi Arabia and the New World of Sports

 

A couple weeks ago, the annual list of the Forbes world’s richest athletes was unveiled. We saw the usual suspects, along with some new names.

10. Kevin Durant – $89.1 million

  9.   Roger Federer – $95.1 million

  8.   Stephen Curry – $100.4 million

  7.    Phil Mickelson – $106 million

  6.   Dustin Johnson – $107 million

  5.   Canelo Alvarez – $110 million

  4.   LeBron James – $119.5 million

  3.   Kylian Mbappe – $120 million

  2.   Lionel Messi – $130 million

  1.   Cristiano Ronaldo – $136 million

On my show “The Pundit’s Pundit”, all four of us panelists (Jacob Christner, Denzel Snipes,  Scott Morganroth, and George Eichorn… 8:00 PM Thursdays on South Florida Tribune and Sideline Sports) talk about the business of sports regularly… both the rising salaries of the players in the leagues, and their rising investment portfolios. I have even authored past columns on the subject.

This is not that column. This column has to do with three of those ten on the list.

Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Cristiano Ronaldo have one thing in common: Saudi Arabia. Ronaldo was always around the top of the list (third time at the top), but Mickelson was 35th the year before, and Dustin Johnson wasn’t even in the top 50. They moved up because of their switch from the PGA Tour to LIV.

For the few uninitiated, the story of LIV is an interesting one. If you are addicted to legacy media, you already hate them for the many reasons you were told to hate them.

LIV Golf is an “upstart” golf league with the money to immediately give the much older PGA tour nightmares. They have a no-cut system, which means guaranteed money. They also have a more team-oriented format, allow music during the round to attract a younger demographic, and besides the guaranteed money from tournaments, guaranteed contracts in the hundreds of millions of dollars make it hard to stay with the traditional PGA format.

Saudi Arabia’s seemingly unlimited stash of money comes from their PIF, or Public Investment Fund, which has nearly $700 billion in assets. The PIF was established in 1971 by royal decree with the stated intent to provide financial support for projects of strategic significance for the national economy. Since the current Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s goal is to phase out oil—the plan is to be 50/50 oil and clean energy by 2030—the projects of strategic significance in the country are sports, mainly golf, soccer, and soon to be tennis and MMA.

Now you would think this would give Saudi Arabia bonus points in the media world. You can’t turn your head without seeing a story about alternative energies, EVs, and getting away from oil. This is not true though, and it shouldn’t be. Saudi Arabia has some of the worst human rights violations in the world. Women only started driving in 2018, and have only been allowed out without a male companion since 2019.

Saudi Arabia has always been this way. The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 shouldn’t have been shocking, but the infantile press made this a story because Donald Trump was the President, and only because of that. He was friendly with the Saudis, mostly because of his past, present, and future business interests in the country. As a result, Saudi Arabia’s a new kind of evil or something.

Because of this evil, anyone that jumped to LIV, or any other Saudi league, lost millions of dollars in present and future endorsements. Those dollars are made up by the PIF, and enough for early retirement, but because of the world press choosing WHEN to hate human rights violations, these athletes reputations are shot for good.

By and large, there is nothing wrong with going after human rights violators. The problem becomes the timing, the reasoning behind it, and the fact that when one makes everything into activism, one forgets to put two and two together. During that Forbes article, they had to bring up that only one woman (Serena Williams) made the list, and the next one closest (Coco Gauff) was $20 million off the list.

This is where they blame America. But this is not an American problem. Women’s sports have never been stronger in America. They have never made more money. This will keep building up over time. 92,000 people just filled a stadium for a woman’s volleyball game. Caitlin Clark is taking women’s college basketball by storm. Their time is coming.

Answer this folks: Do you think you will see multiple women on a richest athletes list if a human rights abuser in the Middle East is handing out the cash?

Maybe they do change their mind one more time and women start making that money.

It’s simple math and common sense, folks, and we’re not using it at all.

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 6 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Thanks for this level headed commentary. It’s a perplexity to me that so many of the “it all depends” or “it’s complicated” or “it’s evolving” crowd don’t want change that involves more freedom or more choices or fewer restrictions made up by a small circle of wealthy insiders. It has seemed to this non-golfer that golf was seemingly meant to be the only sport where players didn’t go to the highest bidder, or that team owners didn’t try to get the best players in one place that money could buy. 

    I love high level athletics of most sports – I’ve been a good athlete and wish I had the natural talent and hard work that leads to that level. But sports are games and I also don’t understand the elevation and price tags that go along with all the professional sports. But I accept that they do. And I do like competition. So go for it LIV. Too bad they don’t have the pretty greens in our Southeast or the wild ones in Scotland. Will it also be a different kind of game?  

    As to women making the money – women simply do not have the bodies nor play the kind of game in any sport that makes for the excitement that people will pay big money to watch. (Yes – I know beach volleyball.) I think there are just not enough  exceptional outliers like Clark and Williams at the same time in the same sports to compete against one another to make that kind of difference long enough. And I don’t think that Saudis will sponsor women for anything as long as the very conservative Sunni’s are in charge and the until concept of common law is effected. So – generations if ever. You might as well ask when China or some of the (now independent ) African countries will effect common law. They are old, very old, and have minimal concern about the well being or rights of the individual. 

    • #1
  2. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I prefer to watch women’s tennis because they tend to have longer volleys,  I also prefer women’s golf because . . . well, there’s a lot of eye candy on the tour . . .

    • #2
  3. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Jacob Christner: but because of the world press choosing WHEN to hate human rights violations,

    Love this line

    • #3
  4. DonG (CAGW is a Scam) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Scam)
    @DonG

    Jacob Christner: Their time is coming.

    Nope.   Tennis the exception, because the game, while different from men’s tennis, is still good for watching.  For all other sports, it is just JV, which will not bring in the big bucks.   If the future is e-sports, that is still dominated by males.

    • #4
  5. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    I haven’t watched a minute of LIV golf. These guys (most of them, anyway) were making excellent money from prizes and endorsements on the PGA tour, but they now get Saudi multi-millions even if they lose. One guy made more LIV money in one season, while never winning an event, than he won in 10+ years on the PGA tour. Now they’re complaining that they don’t get World Golf ranking points that qualify them for majors, etc. Well, guys, you only play 54 holes!

    I used to admire Mickelson because he was sort of the “anti-Tiger;” he was personable, signed lots of autographs, was a practical joker, and a risk-taker (sometimes to his downfall on the course and in the gambling world). Now he can shove it.

    • #5
  6. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Jacob Christner: Women’s sports have never been stronger in America. They have never made more money. This will keep building up over time. 92,000 people just filled a stadium for a woman’s volleyball game. Caitlin Clark is taking women’s college basketball by storm. Their time is coming.

    There’s so much to unpack here. But let’s begin with these.

    The first statement is true. The second statement is kinda true. The revenue is up but they don’t turn a profit. And ultimately that’s the problem. The WNBA has a 28-year legacy and a 28-year hole to dig themselves out of. The league is still losing $10M a year. And they are no longer tethered to the NBA as a lifeline.

    Yes, the University of Nebraska set a world record for volleyball attendance and then had a 92% drop off for their next home game. After the stunt everything returned to normal. The painful reality is that women’s sports are not showing any growth. In fact, the WNBA averaged 4,000 fewer fans per game in 2023 than they did in 1998 which was their second year of existence.

    But what is also unaddressed in the original post is any mention of the leading driver of sports revenue – television – and how the slow and excruciating collapse of the linear delivery model is going to play out, not just for women’s sports, but sports in general.

    Major League Baseball is now reduced to having not one, but three of its teams operating without a local television contract. Overnight and in mid-season last year the San Diego Padres lost $60M in what was supposed to be guaranteed money as Bally Sports SD collapsed. MLB Network came to the rescue but what does it mean?

    If this becomes the model, that is the delivery of individual games without the need to fill the other 21 hours a day with programming 7-days a week, 52-weeks a year, then what happens to women’s sports? It’s one thing to be an affordable filler for a network that never stops programming, it’s another to become appointment viewing where the consumer has a larger-than-normal financial investment.

    Could the Saudis dump a bunch of money into US sports ventures in an attempt to buy goodwill among the American people? Sure they could. But where could they get more bang for their buck – rescuing MLB, NBA and NHL franchises from a collapsing regional sports TV model – or pouring it into women’s sports? I think we know the answer.

    At least we will at the end of this baseball season when Bally morphs into something else thanks to a $115M investment by Jeff Bezos that will put all of Bally’s product on the Amazon Prime streaming platform.

    • #6
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.