Golf great Greg Norman addressed his controversial Saudi Arabia ties by saying the government-sanctioned killing of Jamal Khashoggi was a mere mistake, no different than the many past mistakes committed by the United States.
Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post columnist and political activist, a former member and staunch defender of the international Islamist organization called the Muslim Brotherhood, and an outspoken critic of the Saudi monarchy. He was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2018 by a team of Saudi agents. The Saudi government characterizes the killing as a rogue operation.
A Saudi court handed down death sentences for five of the accused in December 2019. Still, critics say the trial was a whitewash that let the most important players off the hook, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who his detractors charge with ordering the Khashoggi killing. In April, a Turkish court halted the trial of 26 Saudi suspects in the murder. Instead, it transferred the proceedings to Saudi Arabia, a move denounced by Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, as an effort to bury the investigation.
Norman, whose upstart company LIV Golf has been backed by the Saudi government, told TMZ that “everybody has owned up” to the killing.
Images of Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul (Getty Images)
“We’ve all made mistakes. Everybody has owned up to it, right? It has been spoken about, from what I’ve read, going on what you guys reported,” Norman said. “Take ownership, no matter what it is. Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.”
According to the New York Post, Norman’s LIV Golf aims to “compete with the PGA Tour by promising golfers more money — and guaranteed appearance fees — for fewer appearances.” The PGA Tour recently denied golfers waivers to compete in the first LIV Invitational Golf Series tournament.
“This whole thing about Saudi Arabia and Khashoggi and human rights, talk about it, but also talk about the good the country is doing to change its culture,” Norman said of the controversy.
Greg Norman (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
“There’s not many countries that can stand up and be proud of that. They can’t be proud of their past — there’s a lot of countries in this world that have a cross to bear too — but they are looking after the younger generation,” he added.
In response to accusations of “sportswashing,” wherein people of influence allow despots to improve their reputation through sports, Norman told the Financial Times last year that he believes Saudi Arabia has improved itself.
“No, I have not been used for sportswashing because I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve seen the changes that have taken place,” Norman said. “Every country has done horrendous things in the past … just look at America with racism, for example, it’s just so embedded here, it’s just ugly.”