Basketball legend Charles Barkley knows his way around the golf course and he has opted to sign on for the LIV Golf tournament, backed by Saudi Arabia, despite the controversy surrounding human rights abuses in the second-largest country in the Arab world.
The tour, now underway, is financed by $2 billion in cash from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Eight events have been scheduled in four countries including England, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
The name LIV is a reference to the Roman numeral for 54 — the score if every hole on a par-72 course was birdied, and the number of holes to be played at LIV events, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
Participating golfers are taking the flak as people express outrage because of Saudi Arabia’s history of human rights abuses, The Daily Mail reported.
But Barkley is undeterred and pushing back against the criticism.
Americans would rather pay attention to what is going on in a foreign country like Saudi Arabia than do something about civil rights here in the U.S., according to Barkley.
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“I just think it’s funny that they’re more worried about civil rights in Saudi Arabia – a place 99.9 percent of people in the United States have never been,” the former NBA star and current TNT analyst told The Recount in an interview.
“All of a sudden, they’re worried about civil rights in Saudi Arabia. That kind of gives me a chuckle. You don’t worry about civil rights here in the United States, but all of a sudden, when guys start taking money, they feel like, ‘I’m worried about civil rights in Saudi Arabia’ it just makes me laugh,” Barkley continued. “Why don’t y’all worry about civil rights here in the United States, let’s worry about that before we worry about what’s going on in Saudi Arabia?”
Barkley said he is negotiating with LIV Golf and is playing in the league’s New Jersey Pro-Am on July 29-31 at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Barkley said he’s looking for a big payday if he signs on, and referenced the reported LIV Golf paydays secured by the league’s top names, including $200 million for Phil Mickelson and $150 million for Dustin Johnson.
“If they offer me something crazy, I’m gonna take it too,” Barkley said. “Considering how much I make now, it would take a really huge number for me to give up my life right now. I’m not gonna give up my life for … I don’t like to talk about how much money I make.”
Photo: Charles Barkley putts during the American Century Celebrity Championship golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, Stateline, Nev., July 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes) / Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Sept. 18, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/Pool Photo via AP)