History shows when innovation comes along, the future belongs to those who get on board rather than cling to the past.
Kodak dominated the photography industry for decades, but stubbornly insisted people would continue to use film even as digital cameras became commonplace — then went bankrupt in 2013. Blockbuster Video at its height had an empire of almost 10,000 stores across the world — but no one told it the internet was a thing, and now it has exactly one store (in Bend, Oregon). Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was quite possibly the greatest show on earth for almost 150 years — but died in 2017 because it didn't realize that the entertainment tastes of the 21st century had changed since the Civil War.
While there may be a sucker born every minute, as P.T. Barnum said, stubborn fools don't die as fast as their businesses need them to.
Soon to be added to this list of dinosaur businesses is the PGA Tour, which is fighting a new competitor rather than embracing a potential new partner. LIV Golf is a professional golf tour which held its first invitational series this month just outside of London. With the stated goal of "supercharging the game of golf into the sport it's destined to become,"LIV is looking to appeal to new fans the PGA Tour hasn't been able to attract.
Allowing or even encouraging others to participate in what should be a game or fun activity is usually a good idea. The enduring legacy of "Alice in Wonderland" is probably because of the dozens of imitators of Lewis Carroll's original works. "Star Wars" would have long since been forgotten if George Lucas had clamped down on parodies like "Troops" and "Spaceballs." The Larry Bird/Magic Johnson rivalry of the 1980s helped everyone in the NBA, not just the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers.
A rising tide lifts all ships, even on a course full of water hazards. Alas, the PGA Tour doesn't see things that way.
As LIV came online, the leadership of the PGA Tour threatened its members who played for the competitor with fines, suspensions and even lifetime bans. When some members played for the LIV's London event anyway, the PGA Tour shot back that these golfers were no longer eligible to compete in Tour events or the prestigious Presidents Cup.
Even the mafia would think twice about coming down so hard on one of its wiseguys for doing a little work on the side. (They still probably would, but at least they'd think twice about it.)
The Tour is on very shaky legal ground to discriminate like this. PGA Tour legend Dustin Johnson called the Tour's actions "anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive." Indeed, enforcements of this kind could constitute an illegal monopoly — very risky business for an organization that's on such shaky legal and moral ground to begin with.
See, the PGA Tour is listed in the United States as a non-profit because of its stated mission to (ahem) "promote the sport of professional golf and the common interests of touring golf professionals."If it starts violating U.S. antitrust laws, it could jeopardize their status as a 501(c)(6) non-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization.
Even though based outside the U.S., the European-based DP World Tour, the main men's professional golf Tour of the European Tour group, has not taken these actions.
Perhaps one reason Tour pros are so willing to jump ship is the PGA Tour's bizarre compensation structure. For example, according to the Tour's most recently available tax filings, Tour commissioner Jay Monahan took home $8.8 million in salary and bonuses in 2019.
A glance at the Tour's money list for that same year would show that Monahan made more money than all but three of his players without having to hit a single shot. For comparison's sake, 124 basketball players make more per year than NBA commissioner Adam Silver's $10 million salary.
To pivot away from these issues, the Tour is trying to manufacture controversy over LIV Golf's ownership: it's administered by the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. The PGA wants to distract people with questions about Saudi Arabia's sharia-inspired record regarding human rights, women's rights and sexual minority issues. It's even conjured some galling accusations against Saudi Arabia's bogus involvement in Sept. 11th.
It remains to be seen if there's as much ire against the Saudis' hosting golf tournaments as there is against the NBA's repulsive relationship with China — or for our current president going to Saudi Arabia to beg if it could give us more oil please after he sabotaged our domestic energy production.
One doubts that.
And we haven't even mentioned the Tour's complete hypocrisy when it comes to Saudi money. I find it odd that the Tour has no problem tarnishing the reputations of its own members for playing in Saudi-funded golf tournaments while simultaneously accepting hundreds of millions of dollars in sponsorship money from corporate sponsors who do business in and accept investments from the Saudis themselves.
In fact, over 30 of the PGA Tour's biggest sponsors — including FedEx, AT&T, Citi, Boeing, Coca-Cola, American Express, and 3M — either do business in Saudi Arabia, have invested in the country, or accept Saudi investments.
Clearly the Tour has no issue with folks who do business with Saudi Arabia ... unless, of course, you're a PGA Tour member, in which case you are banned for life.
The PGA Tour has enjoyed its monopoly — and the unchecked power that goes with it — for a long time. A globalized labor force threatens that. People can watch any golf tournament they want over a streaming service, or they can go rent a fuzzy PGA VHS tape from the last Blockbuster in the world.
Jared Whitley is a long-time politico who has worked in the U.S. Congress, White House and defense industry. He is an award-winning writer, having won best blogger in the state from the Utah Society of Professional Journalists (2018) and best columnist from Best of the West (2016). He earned his MBA from Hult International Business School in Dubai. Read Jared Whitley's reports — More Here.
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