Well Graeme, any more thoughts on that question yet?
“Pffft. I wish I had the ability to be able to have that conversation with you,” McDowell said.
He had been asked about Saudi Arabia’s infamous human rights record by Associated Press reporter Rob Harris, as the 42-year-old’s preparations for what was the opening event of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series was inconveniently interrupted by do-gooder reporters.
A day later, Ian Poulter added to the embarrassment when he claimed, just as unconvincingly, that he “doesn’t have to answer” when asked, “is there anywhere you wouldn’t play on a moral basis?”
It shouldn’t really need said but these botched responses are offensively disgraceful, embodying the sickening stance of these two and their fellow LIV tour enablers.
Amnesty International have consistently flagged this whole endeavour as nothing more than a “sportswashing exercise”.
That word ‘sportswashing’ is now defined by the Collins dictionary as “the practice of a controversial company or country using sports sponsorship to improve its reputation”.
So it’s a PR attempt to paper over the gaping chasms of the kingdom’s treatment of women, the LGBTQ community, migrant groups and the Saudi-backed coalition’s bombings in Yemen — all as put to Graeme by Mr Harris.
McDowell says getting involved in the series was the “best decision” for his family. If he means financially, it’s worth noting that he’s already won $19m (£15m) on the PGA Tour and €19.5m (£16.6m) on the European Tour.
It’s a considered choice, he says, and yet he can’t seem to be bothered to get clued up on a host of pertinent human rights issues that are of existential importance to masses.
The world and its people are literally dying for better answers, for better thinking and for more courageous, principled “role models” than Graeme has so far proved to be in this sorry escapade.
Thank goodness for Rory McIlroy, his refusal to milk the Saudi cash cow and his deliciously needless takedown of Greg Norman after his refreshing Canadian Open win.
“But what about Newcastle United? What about boxing or Formula One?”
These are the questions being thrown at anybody daring to challenge what McDowell, Poulter and their ilk are trying to brand as a bright future for golf. It’s treated as a supposed trump card to expose hypocrisy.
There is a point there, but not the one these accusers think they are making.
Newcastle United has been bought over by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) — essentially a giant savings account for the government.
Boxing has taken hundreds of millions of pounds for mega fights such as Anthony Joshua’s World Heavyweight title rematch against Andy Ruiz in 2019. Formula One has a 15-year deal with the Saudis worth a reported $65 million per grand prix.
Rather than uncovering double standards, the people pointing to these forerunner issues are stumbling across the exact point. Every aspect of it is indefensibly wrong.
The sporting world is being sold off to hell in a selfish handbasket.
When does it end? Only when we all draw the line.
That includes the competitors like McDowell and Poulter growing a conscience, the reporters refusing to let-up on Rob Harris’ line of questioning and sports fans who must use what power we have; to turn off and tune out.
If we buy tickets to watch G Mac tee it up, flock into St James’ Park to watch the Toon — with or without mock headdress — or even turn on the TV to check out the Saudi Grand Prix, we’re complicit.
This includes the 94,000 who turned on the opening day of last week’s golf coverage. Thankfully, that figure plummeted to 54,000 a day later.
By accepting the product, we’re getting involved in what is an attempt to divert attention from the likes of the imprisonment and potential execution of Hassan Farhan al-Maliki, held since 2017 for charges that include a peaceful, tolerant understanding of Islam, “conducting interviews with western news outlets” and “owning books” that are “not authorised” by the kingdom.
Or the 24-year-old man who was sentenced to three years in prison and 450 lashes back in 2014 for “promoting the vice and practice of homosexuality”.
Or the estimated 377,000 people who have died in Yemen over the course of the war involving a Saudi-led coalition.
So yes, it’s time to demand more of our (laughably) self-confessed ‘role models’ like Graeme McDowell. It’s time to demand more of the Premier League and of Formula One.
But it’s also time to demand more of ourselves. Enough is enough. This has to be the line in the sand. There are too many lives depending on it.
The world needs more thoughtful people and compassionate decisions. It needs a LOT better, from McDowell and all of us: sportswashing is over, if you want it.