‘Sportswashing’ goes much beyond Qatar. What about Trump and the Saudis?

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL November 17, 2022

With all the talk about “sportswashing” in the countdown to the World Cup in Qatar, it’s worth paying close attention to an important new piece by Judd Legum of Popular Information. (For those not au fait with Mr Legum, he is a journalist who started an independent newsletter that does the work we might expect from big media houses. Please support his journalism, if you can.)

Anyway, Popular Information has offered an insightful new exercise in sportswashing and more, underway right under the nose of American voters. It’s about Donald Trump’s financial ties with Saudi Arabia, something the newsletter describes as “expanding”.

That appears to be exquisite understatement. Judge for yourself by reading the Popular Information piece or, if you can’t, get some of the highlights below. It’s fair to say that much of what it uncovers suggests  the orange peril’s candidacy is a new and troubling phase for the business of politics in America. As Popular Information says, it “raises the prospect of a major party nominee that is on the payroll of a foreign government.”

According to the newsletter, “the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) has spent billions creating LIV, a new golf tour,” and two of its eight-tournament roster for 2022 “were held at Trump-owned golf courses”. It adds that the Saudi fund pays for the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour, which held an event last month “at Trump’s Ferry Point Golf Course in New York”, with another reportedly planned for May at Mr Trump’s Virginia golf course in Virginia. Popular Information says that the tournaments “doubled as political events” and drew significant members of the American right, including the outspoken Republican Congresswoman from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Fox News’ outrageous Tucker Carlson.

Mr Trump has been metaphorically rubbing his hands at his good fortune, according to Popular Information, which notes his words last month: “It’s big time and it’s big-time money. It’s unlimited money. They love golf, and the Saudis have done a fantastic job.”

He also apparently addressed  Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights as follows: “We have human rights issues in this country, too“.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has reportedly been ringing around broadcasters to try and get a broadcaster for the Saudi golf tournament. Popular Information says that the ‘Sports Business Journal’  had a piece in August on Mr Kushner’s calls. Mr Kushner, of course, has a pretty good deal with the Saudis himself. He is set to receive a $25 million annual management fee of Affinity Partners Fund, the private equity fund he founded, plus a percentage of its profits. This largesse comes from the Saudi public fund, which incidentally invested $2 billion in Affinity. Mr Kushner remember was present at Mr Trump’s November 15 announcement of his candidacy for president.

And finally, Mr Trump has a new deal this week with a Saudi-based real estate company.

The whole saga looks to be much more than “sportswashing”.