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Husband of USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland is working with controversial LIV Golf venture

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As the controversial Saudi-funded LIV Golf league hosts its first tournament in the United States later this week near Portland, Oregon, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirschland confirmed Monday to USA TODAY Sports that her husband Keith, a veteran television golf producer, is a “contractor for the LIV”.

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When asked about her husband’s role in LIV Golf, Hirschland, who led the USOPC for almost four years and is considered the highest ranked woman in American sports, wrote:

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“I can confirm that he is a LIV contractor. In addition, I will not comment on my husband’s employment and speak on his behalf. We are both professionals who have made and will continue to make individual career decisions. I hope that in 2022 women will not be defined by their husbands’ careers.”

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She continued, “In my role as USOPC CEO and champion of the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, I am unwavering in my determination to uphold the ideals of Olympic values. I will always advocate sport as a path to peace and understanding between communities and cultures. It is my goal”.

Keith Hirschland did not respond to a message on Sunday evening asking for comment.

For the last month PGA Tour defection news Incredible sums of Saudi money — such as the $200 million claimed for Phil Mickelson — have rocked men’s golf and become a leading story in the world of sports.

In addition to Mickelson, big names like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau left for huge payouts and showy 54-hole LIV Golf tournaments without cuts.

LIFE GOLF: PGA Tour did the right thing by suspending Mickelson and others

COLUMN: Koepka and other LIV boys pose no threat to PGA Tour

TV presenters also took part in the new tour. Arlo White, former NBC Sports Premier League announcer and longtime Golf Channel reporter Jerry Foltz, announced the LIV Golf earlier this month. Tournaments are not broadcast on terrestrial or cable television, but are broadcast on the LIV Golf website and on YouTube and Facebook.

Over the past few weeks, several emails have been sent to LIV Golf representatives from USA TODAY Sports asking about Keith Hirschland’s role on their broadcast team, including on Monday, but they declined to confirm his employment, his specific role or title.

The LIV Golf is funded by the Saudi Government’s Public Investment Fund., which is controlled by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. According to human rights organizations and US intelligence agencies, MBS authorized the murder and dismemberment in 2018 of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Various individuals and groups, including Khashoggi’s fiancee, 9/11 Families Organizing as well as U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon, criticized participation of American golfers in the Saudi enterprise.

“They are helping the Saudi regime clean up its reputation in exchange for tens of millions of dollars,” Terry Strada, national chairman of 9/11 Families United, said in a June 13 statement to USA TODAY Sports. The commissioner said on Sunday that “you would have to live under a rock” not to understand the consequences of being associated with the Saudis.

Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 11 hijackers on September 19 were Saudis.

In a June 16 telephone interview, Wyden was asked by USA TODAY Sports what he would say to Mickelson about his connection to the Saudis.

“I would just say it’s wrong,” Wyden said. “I went to school on a basketball scholarship. I deeply believe in the role of sport in building goodwill. I would tell Mr. Mickelson that you can do better. You can be much better than this, you will obviously have plenty of opportunities to earn very substantial amounts of money, but you can do it in a way that does not reward those with bloody hands.

On April 25, the mayors of 11 Oregon cities near Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, home of this week’s LIV golf tournament, wrote a letter expressing similar concerns.

“We oppose this event because it is sponsored by a repressive government whose human rights abuses are documented,” the mayors said. “We refuse to support these violations by knowingly allowing a Saudi-backed organization to play in our backyard.”

According to LIV Golf, tournament players will be up for a $25 million prize pool this week. Earlier this month, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan suspended 17 golfers who left the tour to play in the inaugural LIV Golf tournament in London.

“The PGA Tour, an American organization, cannot compete with a foreign monarchy that spends billions of dollars trying to buy a game of golf,” Monahan said last week. “We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Golf League in Saudi Arabia is not like that. It’s an irrational threat that has nothing to do with ROI or real game growth.”

Contributing: Tom Shad, Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sarah Hirschland, CEO of USOPC, responds to her husband’s work at LIV Golf


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