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PGA responds to lawsuit filed by ‘Saudi Golf League employees’ in scathing memo

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PGA Tour replied to lawsuit filed by professional golfers who recently joined rival tour LIV Golf, calling them “Saudi Golf League employees,” according to a memo obtained by Sportzshala Finance.

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Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and nine other LIV golfers filed an antitrust complaint against the PGA Tour on Wednesday. Hours later, PGA Tour officials responded to their members with a scathing note from tour commissioner Jay Monahan.

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“This is an attempt to use the TOUR platform for self-promotion and free use of your benefits and efforts,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan wrote to attendees. “Repeated participation in our events puts the Tour and the competition at risk to the detriment of our organisations, our players, our partners and our fans. The lawsuit they filed somehow suggests that we will believe otherwise, so we intend to make our position clear and forceful.”

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In a statement to Sportzshala Finance, LIV Golf said: “The players are right to file a lawsuit to challenge the anti-competitive rules of the PGA Tour and protect their rights as independent contractors to play where and when they choose. Despite the PGA Tour’s efforts to stifle competition, we believe golfers should be allowed to play golf.”

PGA Memorandum received by Yahoo Finance.
PGA Memorandum received by Sportzshala Finance.

LIV golfers Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones are seeking a temporary restraining order to play in the FedEx Cup PGA Tour playoffs starting next week.

Fellow LIVs Ian Poulter, Abraham Unser, Carlos Ortiz, Pat Perez, Jason Cocrack and Peter Uichlein are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which is filed less than a month after the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an antitrust investigation into the PGA Tour.

The discussion between the PGA Tour and its suspended members intensified as more players joined the LIV Golf tour, referring to . Sources familiar with the situation told Sportzshala Finance that Tour sees LIV as a competitive threat and is trying to improve its own product to compete with it.

Tensions between the PGA Tour and the suspended members continue to rise as more players join LIV Golf, allowing for higher compensation and a more relaxed style of play. The PGA Tour is getting more aggressive in terms of rhetoric and action associated with the upstart tour.

“Essentially, these suspended players who are now employees of the Saudi Golf League have left the TOUR and now want to come back,” Monahan wrote to attendees. “Since the Saudi Golf League is on hiatus, they are trying to use lawyers to break into the competition along with our members in good standing.”

Golf - 150th Open Championship - Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland, UK - July 12, 2022 Phil Mickelson of the USA during the REUTERS/Andrew Boyers practice round
Golf – 150th Open Championship – Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland, UK – July 12, 2022 Phil Mickelson of the USA during the REUTERS/Andrew Boyers practice round

PGA Tour defines itself as “the world’s leading membership organization for touring professional golfers”, which distinguishes the sport from other American leagues such as the NFL or NBA.

Each year, the PGA requires members to sign a membership renewal. Part of this agreement waives each player’s media rights and their ability to compete in other golf tournaments at the discretion of the PGA Tour.

In a statement, the plaintiffs dispute the legality of this practice. Players position themselves as “independent contractors” and mention the phrase “monopoly” 34 times. They claim that the Tour is trying to “harm” them for leaving for a competitor.

However, the activity of a monopoly is not in itself illegal. The key phrase in Monahan’s note – the reference to “business partners” – will be critical if the case goes to trial, a source familiar with the case told Sportzshala Finance.

Since some of the PGA Tour’s business presentations to media partners and brand sponsors involve group media rights, the PGA Tour believes that tour members who professionally play golf off the tour will detrimentally impact the financial value of their partners.

Golf - 150th Open Championship - Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland, UK - July 17, 2022 Bryson DeChambeau of the USA in 3rd place during the REUTERS/Phil Noble final round
Golf – 150th Open Championship – Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland, UK – July 17, 2022 Bryson DeChambeau of the USA in 3rd place during the REUTERS/Phil Noble final round

LIV, however, does not see the competition as black and white. league that received reported $2 billion in funding, publicly advertises a desire to work with the PGA Tour.

“We are very open to any conversations with the PGA Tour about what the future will look like,” Atul Khosla, chief operating officer and president of LIV Golf, told Sportzshala Finance. recently. “We feel there is room in the golf ecosystem for both products. We’re not going to run events that conflict with major PGA events, and certainly not against any major tournaments. We look forward to working together within this ecosystem. Very open to trying to build that relationship and figuring out how it might work in the future.”

However, this did not actually happen during the first season of LIV. The first LIV event occurred during the Canadian Open PGA Tour and conflicts have arisen since. The LIV plans to expand to 14 tournaments next year, which could lead to further scheduling conflicts.

Because players leaving the league could potentially affect the long-term outcome of the Tour, Monahan sent a clear message to members on how the PGA Tour would deal with this complaint.

“I also encourage you to speak up publicly on this issue if you are so inclined,” Monahan wrote. “This is your TOUR built on us working together for the benefit and growth of the organization… and then you reap the rewards. … It looks like your former colleagues forgot one important aspect of this equation.”

Josh is a reporter and producer for Sportzshala Finance.

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Source: sports.yahoo.com

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