Sponsors of rebel golfers consider cutting ties amid controversy

Sponsors of golfers who have signed up to the Saudi-funded breakaway tour monitoring fallout to controversial LIV Series with a view to possibly ending their deals with some players

  • Star names including Phil Mickelson have already lost endorsement deals
  • Players to have joined the Saudi-backed rebel tour face further personal losses
  • Many of the players at this week’s LIV event have been criticised for playing
  • Sportsmail contacted a range of sponsors with personal tie-ups to to golfers involved 

Some sponsors associated with golfers involved in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf events are monitoring the fallout from the controversial series to assess whether they might cut ties with some players.

Star names including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell have all already lost endorsement deals for signing-up to LIV, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, chaired by Mohammad bin Salman.

MBS has been implicated by intelligence agencies in the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, and Saudi Arabia has been widely criticised by human rights groups for their lack of democracy, use of the death penalty, and treatment of women and the LGBT community.

Many of the players at this week’s LIV event have been derided for, in effect, becoming poster boys for Saudi Arabia, having pocketed massive sums to play and publicise LIV.

Mickelson has been paid $200m to sign up, and Johnson $150m, while others have been guaranteed tens of millions, before any prize money.

When McDowell tweeted that he was ‘excited to be participating’ in the inaugural LIV event, his replies were deluged with GIFs of bloody swords and references to human rights abuses.

‘What’s the trophy for the winner? A solid silver bone saw?’ asked one respondent.

‘Sad. Just sad and disappointing that it’s all just become about the money,’ said another.

‘Good luck with your decision and bye. Won’t be watching you play,’ said a third.

Another replied: ‘Siri, define ‘complicit’.’

Sportsmail contacted a range of sponsors with personal tie-ups to to golfers in the inaugural 48-man field, from Adidas and Hublot to Ping, Titleist, NetJets, Callaway, Lacoste and Srixon among others.

We asked whether they were happy with their players’ involvement in LIV given the controversy over the funding; and whether they as companies had any policies on ethics in sport, and whether they consider ethics in sport to be important.

Some indicated they were keeping the situation under review. Most did not reply.

Those who have signed up to the tour have been accused of being patsies for the Saudi regime

TaylorMade said: ‘No comment.’

BMW said: ‘Peaceful competition and events which cross international boundaries promote fairness and respect. These values, conveyed through sport, are also important to the BMW Group.

‘Through BMW brand partnerships, the BMW Group is involved in various golf sponsorship commitments, including the DP World Tour, the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour.

‘BMW is closely monitoring the current situation and we are in ongoing dialogue with our golf partners.’

Dustin Johnson has also lost sponsorship as a direct result of his involvement in the LIV tour

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