Amidst the hats of MAGA in Doral Trump, LIV Golf finds a niche

Suspension

Miami – It’s been years since they’ve been on vacation, only two of them. So on Thursday morning, Sania and Jeremy Harper dropped their three oldest children to school, the little one with his grandparents, and began the four-hour driving trip south.

They decided months ago to leave Orlando and attend two days of the LIV Golf Team Championship, and from the moment they entered the Trump National Doral on Friday, Sania noticed something familiar. The music, the confetti, the carefree party atmosphere – it had a distinct feel to Donald Trump’s career.

It’s about liveliness and attitude. You can be weird and in your face, and you’re not a disrespectful or bad person, unquoted quote.

“Life is short,” said 32-year-old Sania.

“You can unbutton a little bit and let everything out.”

Then, another fan approached and complimented Sania’s red “Make America Great Again” hat, which she bought for $36 at the course merchandise store. Trump’s clothing and campaign tags are a familiar sight here; Sania estimated that 20 people had stopped her to praise her hat. “It’s just about being able to be yourself,” she said. “This is me, this is LIV, this is Donald Trump.”

For most of 2022, the Rebellious Golf Series has been in the first year The focus of intense scrutiny. Much of it focused on Amazing rewards and cash prizes Hanging in front of golfers for the PGA Tour defection and the fact that the source of the money is the Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund.

Inside the ropes in LIV Golf’s return to Saudi Arabia

But with LIV’s inaugural season winding down, it’s also clear that the series has undoubtedly become entangled with Trump and is perhaps the most popular among his supporters. Two of its eight tournaments have been held at Trump Courses, the former president has continually planted himself in the civil war in golf, and ahead of the midterms and a possible 2024 presidential campaign, Trump is once again using the sport — this time his favourite — as a political spotlight. Stick.

“The PGA is being destroyed by the PGA,” Trump told reporters Thursday after playing at the LIV pro event with Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia. “They were stupid, and they shouldn’t be stupid.”

Sports and other major leagues have political leanings, dictated largely by target audiences and different power centers. College football and the NFL lean to the right, the NBA to the left, although this is often discussed in a whispering tone so as not to divide the audience widely and scare advertisers. LIV, still searching for its voice and a foothold in packed sports-entertainment, may stand out as something out of the ordinary: America’s first outright right-wing sports league.

There are clear comparisons between LIV and Trump, from defining themselves as opponents of a dusty and corrupt establishment to digging in their heels amid the skeptical and largely critical mainstream media. The series hired Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary under George W. Bush, as a correspondent advisor before its launch. Greg Norman, the former PGA Tour star who is now CEO and commissioner of LIV, has maintained a friendship with Trump for decades and designed courses for some of his properties. Norman sought messaging advice from the former president before launching LIV in the spring, and the organization’s favorite speaker was Fox News, as Norman’s strategy appears to tend to cause controversy at times.

“Why do they choose professional golfers? Why? Male professional golfers?” Norman said during his July appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” LIV has been facing a severe backlash, in some cases, for offering nine-figure contracts paid with Saudi money. “Ladies, the LPGA Tour is sponsored by Aramco, right? … You didn’t say a word about them, did you? But why is he – why is he on guys? Why are we ogres? What did we do wrong?” (In fact, Aramco sponsors several tournaments on the Women’s European Tour but not the LPGA Tour.)

Atul Khosla, LIV’s president and chief operating officer, said in a recent interview that attracting a primarily Republican fan base is “the furthest thing from my head.”

“Our goal is to attract fans of golf and the sport. That’s it,” he said. “Whether they lean left or right doesn’t matter to us. … Our lenses, at the end of the day, attract golf and sports enthusiasts. That’s what we focus on.”

Her association with Trump may complicate this task. Norman said the LIVs are scheduled in Doral and Bedminster this season because they simply need places to play. Trump quickly took the opportunity to collect the venue fee and also insert himself into a radiant conversation and take sides in it.

Kevin Madden, a veteran Republican strategist who was a senior advisor on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, said that both Trump and LIV seem uninterested in history and tradition, as they share a mutual focus on transactional relationships. Referring to the LIV slogan “Golf, but louder,” Madden noted that Trump is marketing himself as “politics, but louder.”

“She’s taking over the establishment,” Madden added, “and what [fans] The love in LIV is what I love about Trump: They both piss off the right people.”

The shark attacked again

Five days later January 62021, Rebellion, American PGA canceled plans for holding the 2022 PGA Championship in Bedminster, saying that going ahead with the Trump cycle would be “detrimental” to the organization’s brand. The British Open also announced that it will remove Trump Turnberry Hotel from its rotation.

in LIV event in Bedminster in JulyTrump watched the final round of the tournament alongside Carlson and Representative Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ge), and right-leaning sports media personalities Clay Travis and Sage Steele were seen in and around the stadium’s reception hall. Trump periodically appeared on a patio overlooking tee 16 to acknowledge a great exhibit, and at one point, he threw hats at the crowd.

“It was just in the background, but in the foreground, if you know what I mean,” Norman told Carlson.

Last week, LIV players gathered in South Florida to compete for a share of the team’s $50 million prize, the largest purse in golf history. Trump did not hesitate to put himself, and perhaps his political aspirations, in full view. Eric Trump, a fellow supporter of his father, played on a golf bag embroidered with “TRUMP 2024”.

“beauty!” Garcia announced after Donald Trump hit three woods to get to the green on the 13th hole.

amazing Shot, sir,” an aide in the ‘MAGA’ hat announced neither the first nor the last time after Trump swung.

Trump posed for photos and spoke with onlookers, and at one point two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson (working as a LIV broadcast analyst while recovering from knee surgery) waved in front of Secret Service members to issue his support for Watson’s decision to move to Liv. Later, an autograph seeker produced a 1990 issue of Playboy magazine with Trump on the cover, attracting the former president’s attention.

“I have to show this to Sergio,” Trump said, and for the next 10 minutes, Trump passed it among his entourage, turning occasionally between pages before signing the case and returning it.

This isn’t the first time Trump has brought himself into the conversation of national sports, and it’s certainly not new that the league has to weigh the cost and benefit of allying with him. In 2017, in response to protests by NFL players, Trump Suggest that players “expel” For field demonstrations and beyond Instructed to Vice President Mike Pence To suddenly leave the Indianapolis Colts game. Some franchisees, such as Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, I sided with Trumpeffectively causing a deeper rift between the league’s mostly white billionaire management class and its predominantly black player workforce.

Tournament teams visited the White House in a political moment, with the media documenting who skipped the procedures and who attended. Trump has occasionally appeared in a high position college football And the baseball Games, order Air Force One from the Daytona 500.

The LIV leadership has privately said that it wants to move beyond its controversial first year and expand its fan base as it seeks to seal a media rights deal. Amid accusations of corruption, greed and Saudi Arabia’s attempts to “sportswash” a shocking record of human rights abuses, players were repeatedly asked to explain their decision to join LIV and accept money from the Saudi government, which has earmarked $3 billion to fund the series. During the first three seasons.

said Bryson DeChambeau, who is reported to have Received at least $100 million to sign with LIV, during his private interview with Carlson in August. The political implications were a different matter. He added, “I had to weigh all those social consequences [consequences]How will I be shown in public?”

Trump takes center stage in the run-up to his third LIV Golf

If LIV hopes to separate itself from Trump, history will indicate that that could be a difficult prospect. Shortly after the police murder of George Floyd in 2020, the NFL briefly reunites, and Commissioner Roger Goodell Appeared in a video In it he said that the league was mistaken for its position three years ago and that “we, the National Football League, believe that black lives matter.”

trump He went on the offensive, launched tweets criticizing former Saints quarterback Drew Brees and calling the NFL “weak” in response to Goodell’s video. Fans of the country’s most powerful and popular sports league find themselves in a precarious position: having to choose between their favorite sport and their favorite politician, the powers that be once allied.

Although LIV has not publicly wooed Trump, she has not rejected him either. The association now appears strong enough that some Trump supporters attend the LIV events precisely because the former president is behind them.

“It’s what the American people want,” said Alexander Davis, a 37-year-old fan, who on Friday donned a red, white and blue Trump hat in Doral. He agreed to be interviewed by The Washington Post on the condition that any article associated with it avoided “fake news”.

“It’s freedom. The freedom to enjoy, have fun, and bring in people who might not have viewed golf as a sport. Not only that, but just enjoy themselves and the camaraderie of people who don’t even know each other,” Davis said.

Another fan who listened said it seemed intended that LIV’s Doral was marketing itself to a pro-Trump audience with $8, and activities like chip simulators and a Cam Smith-inspired mullet-hair-cut station.

“I wish I could put my finger on it,” said Ray Bennato, 67, who identified himself as a Trump supporter. But most of those people here seem to be Trump – I can’t say that – but they are more right-wing than left-wing. From what I see, LIV is just open freedom.”

On Friday afternoon, follow Sania, Jeremy Koepka, and Phil Mickelson (who has a villa named after him in Doral) before heading toward a set of terraces overlooking the 18th green. Jeremy is a professional golfer, as he says he competes in small rounds, and Sania Sometimes it accompanies training courses. She said that if her husband was not playing, she would be ready to leave after a few holes, bored with the silence of sports and fitness.

“Go LIV! Go to Trump! She called toward another passerby who noticed her hat. “Here, I can say ‘PGA’ out loud and no one will attack me. There, in the PGA, I probably can’t even say “LIV”; They will probably ban me. You go to the Trump rally, you say “Biden,” and no one will say anything. You are not allowed to be human.”

Sanya danced on the wagon path as she approached the stands, running up to golfer Pat Perez, who at first seemed stunned before shaking his head at Sanya and continuing on. Sania laughed, saying she would “do anything” to see Trump, who, whether LIV wanted him or not, made himself the biggest star of the series.

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