The government was always going to weigh in on a story with such deep geopolitical implications. The PGA Tour's deal to take on cash from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund is unprecedented in major American sports. This isn't a rich guy from a problematic country buying a team like Joe Tsai and the Brooklyn Nets. This is the sovereign fund of a foreign government getting a strong foothold into a major American sports league.
Adding another layer of complexity is the fact that PGA Tour officials were in Washington D.C. not long ago lobbying lawmakers to aid their efforts against Saudi sportswashing. Chris Murphy, senator from Connecticut, reacted with a what the hell?! almost immediately after the news dropped.
"So weird," he tweeted. "PGA officials were in my office just months ago talking about how the Saudis' human rights record should disqualify them from having a stake in a major American sport. I guess maybe their concerns weren't really about human rights?"
On Wednesday, he retweeted the following:
He went a step further on Wednesday, looking ahead to what ramifications such a precedent might set.
“I think it's a really serious thing to have a foreign dictatorship in charge of a major US sports league," Murphy said, per CNN's Manu Raju. "They're buying the PGA because they want it erase their dizzying campaign of political oppression."
Murphy's not the only one concerned.
"I'm certainly going to be digging into this," said senate finance chairman Ron Wyden. "This looks to me like a cash grab, plain and simple, and it raises very troubling questions, and we'll be digging into it."
Dick Blumenthal, also of Connecticut, referenced the Department of Justice's ongoing investigation into the PGA Tour over potential anti-competitive practices.
“There's an ongoing Department of Justice investigation, I would intensify it and focus not only on the anti-trust issues, but also on the potential foreign registration questions."
The two men who negotiated the deal on the PGA Tour side—Jimmy Dunne and Ed Herlihy—are the furthest thing from dumbies, and it's hard to imagine they'd make a deal like this without doing their due diligence on this very issue. Herlihy, chair of the PGA Tour policy board, is a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rose & Katz, the most profitable law firm on the planet. Surely he knew of these potential hurdles.
It's also worth noting that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is in Saudi Arabia at this very moment, meeting with crown prince Mohamed bin Salman. As has been pointed out by so many throughout this whole LIV process, the U.S. government has long considered Saudi Arabia an ally—we buy oil from them, they buy weapons from us. And again, I just have a very hard time believing the PGA Tour and its white-shoe lawyers struck this deal if it could all come crashing down after a few senators look into it.
Still, it's another headache for the PGA Tour in what has been a truly transformative week in Ponte Vedra Beach.