Two senators ask attorney general to review PGA Tour-LIV Golf partnership

LOS ANGELES — Two U.S. senators are asking Attorney General Merrick Garland to review the PGA Tour’s planned partnership with the DP World Tour and LIV Golf.

And if so, they want the Justice Department to oppose the deal if it reduces competition in violation of federal antitrust laws.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote a letter to Garland and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. While they admittedly don’t have all the answers about the proposed merger — no one at the US Open at the Los Angeles Country Club this week seems to have the answers either — the “red flags regarding antitrust concerns are clear. “.

“[This partnership] enable[s] the Saudi government’s efforts to ‘sportswash’ its egregious human rights record,” the senators wrote, “[and it] raises an array of potential legal and regulatory issues, including with respect to the PGA Tour’s nonprofit tax status and antitrust law. »

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced plans last week to merge with LIV Golf and the DP World Tour, a sea change in his long battle with the Saudi-backed league. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund will now back the new entity, which has drawn massive criticism from inside and outside the Tour.

The announcement sparked an investigation earlier this week, separate from the Justice Department’s probe into antitrust concerns raised last year.

Warren and Wyden, per ESPN, pointed out that the Tour has previously criticized LIV Golf for not “competing fairly to start a golf league,” and that he was simply trying to “sportswash” alleged human rights abuses. of the Saudi government, the murder of former Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and more.

“The PGA-LIV deal would make an American organization complicit – and force American golfers and their fans to join that complicity – in the Saudi regime’s latest attempt to clean up its abuses by pouring funds into major sports leagues” , wrote the senators.

This proposed deal between the Tour and LIV Golf, the senators said, would violate two laws in place to prohibit the restriction of trade and commerce and illegal corporate mergers and acquisitions. They compared the deal to the attempted partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue, which was struck down last month by a federal judge.

“A merger would also give the newly formed entity monopsony power over golfers,” Warren and Wyden wrote. “When LIV was still a threat to the PGA Tour’s dominance of tournament golf in the United States, the two competed fiercely for golfers and offered increasingly higher tournament prize money as a result.

“This monopoly merger intentionally eliminates LIV as a potential competitor and would likely cause the new entity to reverse the pattern of newly increased tournament prize money for its golfers…While the PGA Tour has apparently attempted to reverse its original statement by removing the word “merge” from the press release announcing the deal, its impacts cannot be erased: it would result in a monopoly over professional golf operations in the United States and potentially beyond.

Monahan, who is currently recovering from a medical emergency, stood by her decision despite all the backlash. In his eyes, this is the best way forward for the sport after more than a year of chaos.

“I understand the criticism I receive for hypocrisy and being hypocritical given my comments and actions over the past two years,” Monahan said last week. “As we moved forward and reached a compromise, that was obviously one of my big considerations. But any hypocrisy that I must possess, no one else. That’s on me. members, that should be addressed to me. As we sit here today, I am convinced that we have done something that is in the best interests of our sport and, ultimately, in the best interests of the members of the PGA Tour.

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