Greg Norman, the chairman and CEO of LIV Golf, got pushback from some Republican House members over backing from Saudi Arabia as he pitched his league and concerns about competitiveness issues to members of Congress.
Criticism came as he met with the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House, on Wednesday.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) in the meeting pressed Norman on his league’s Saudi ties and why it has not registered as a foreign agent. He has previously called on the Justice Department to investigate whether LIV Golf violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by not registering its ties with the Saudi Arabian government.
“Don't come in here and act like you're doing some great thing while you're pimping a billion dollars of Saudi Arabian money and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the United States,” Roy told reporters after the meeting. He said that Norman’s efforts on Capitol Hill are “PR for Saudi Arabia — it’s PR for LIV Golf.”
LIV Golf was started this year as a PGA Tour competitor, and Norman came to the Capitol to talk to members about what he says are anti-competitive tactics by the PGA. In July, the Justice Department launched an investigation into the PGA Tour over allegations of possible anti-competitive behavior.
Before the end of Norman’s visit with the group, Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) left the meeting, saying that he could not fully understand what Norman was saying because of his Australian accent and that it was all “basically propaganda,” and dismissed issues that Norman raised about anti-competitive behavior.
“A bunch of rich guys [are] not gonna play golf somewhere — it doesn't bother me one bit,” Burchett said. “Federal government needs to stay out of that and just let these country clubbers handle their own game.”
Burchett also knocked LIV Golf’s Saudi ties.
“It shouldn't be taking up our time. [We’re a] conservative organization, and we ought to be dealing with what we've got to deal with in our country, not with — worried about a bunch of Saudis, a bunch of billionaire oil people, are dealing with,” Burchett said.
Norman told reporters after the meeting that there was not anything specific in terms of legislation that he was looking for from lawmakers, but that he just wanted to tell them “both sides of the story for them to understand what LIV is all about.”
He said that members were “very positive” in their response to his message, and that it was “great to have an open debate” with Roy in the meeting.
Norman brushed off concerns about registering as a foreign agent. “We're a commercial operation. So we're here just to grow the game of golf,” he said.
And Norman asserted that he has not faced lawmakers giving him a hard time over LIV. “Not one person since I've been CEO has told me this is a bad idea,” he said.
LIV Golf has already gotten an embrace from some on the right. In June, former President Trump, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), and Fox News host Tucker Carlson attended an LIV Golf tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said Norman had requested to speak to the group and that there was a “lively discussion,” adding that golf stars Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus are also welcome to come talk to the group about the PGA.
“Frankly, I'm not a golfer. I don't have time for golf,” Banks said. “It's a great American sport, and Greg Norman is a legend. So we were glad to have him.”