Tue | Dec 6, 2022

Gordon Robinson | It’s always about the money

Published:Sunday | May 22, 2022 | 12:09 AM

Sinking in a cesspool of their own making, the Reggae Girlz have as much chance of qualifying for the World Cup as I have of flying backways on a broomstick to the moon.
Sinking in a cesspool of their own making, the Reggae Girlz have as much chance of qualifying for the World Cup as I have of flying backways on a broomstick to the moon.

The world of sport seems to be suffering from a severe bout of long COVID.

Take the Reggae Girlz, for example. They seemed to be going along nicely. Team spirit appeared admirable. Despite obvious preparation problems, their professionalism and performance on the field of play, although far from flawless, was of a high enough standard to get them comfortably through to the final stages of World Cup Qualifiers. Fans, disappointed by the Reggae Boyz scatter-shot tactics and questionable commitment to Jamaica, settled down to enjoy the Girlz’s journey, win or lose.

Then came that letter! That letter was leaked to media. Sensational details of the team’s disgraceful dressing-down of the coach were bruited about in the public domain and available for excruciating examination, scandalous sharing,and snickering suss.

What was the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) to do? It would be pusillanimous, putrid, pointless policy to allow a team to dismiss a coach, especially in such a public manner. So the JFF took the only decision available to it in the circumstances and stood by the coach.

Good on them!

What was Coach Blaine to do? He clearly lost his team, no matter where the fault lay for that loss. It would’ve been intolerably impossible (not to mention selfish) to return to a job, leading athletes that clearly did not want him to lead them. It’s like a scorned spouse refusing to separate or an unwanted tenant refusing to quit the premises. It was simply untenable. So he, too, did exactly the right thing by resigning.

Good on him!

Now, sinking in a cesspool of their own making, the Reggae Girlz have as much chance of qualifying for the World Cup as I have of flying backways on a broomstick to the Moon. So I hope they’re happy.

THE PHIL ISSUE

By the time this is published, the 2022 PGA Championship of Golf will be in its fourth and final day at Southern Hills, Tulsa, Oklahoma, not too far from the site of the Black Wall Street Massacre (May 31 and June 1, 1921) and where Tiger Woods won the last Major Championship played there (the 2007 PGA).

Last year, at Kiawah Island, the most amazing result of a Major Championship ever was experienced as the great Phil ‘The Thril’” Mickelson won just two weeks shy of his 51st birthday to become the oldest Major Champion in history.

It’s beyond sad that Phil isn’t in this year’s field defending his title. Why? He withdrew because of a furore, fuelled by traditional media, over a breakaway league backed by Saudi Arabian oil money about which Phil has come out in full-throated support, saying that he expects the new league to give players leverage for better deals from the PGA. The first event on that “rebel” league is scheduled to take place a week before the USGA’s US Open. But it’s the PGA that has taken umbrage with Phil, mainly because his public statement of support made it clear that he was well aware of Saudi Arabia’s troubled human rights record but didn’t see that as affecting the game of golf.

Well, as the iconic Paul Keenes-Douglas might say “Who tell him say so?” He has been inundated by media abuse, including media making its research into his personal life very public. Apparently, Phil, always known as a street hustler, had racked up US$40 million in gambling losses over a four-year period, and the speculation is that he’s being paid US$130 million up front to join this new tour, thus entangling him without escape. According to media frenzy, it has NOTHING to do with golf and is all about the money.

Well, whaddaya know? Since when has it NOT been all about the money? I suppose media “analysts” are all working for free or have never pressured media bosses for raises?

Regarding the gambling losses, all competitive sports, but especially golf, are played by betting types. Who among you has played even a casual round of golf with a friend without having a bet on who wins? Not Phil, I promise you.

Lookie here. I understand this is a self inflicted wound because like the Reggae Girlz, all Phil had to do was shut up and go about his business. Still, I’m intellectually offended by the uproar created by traditionalists as if this hasn’t historically been the tool used by athletes in every sport to get more from commercial exploitation by governing bodies of their talent.

Sports historians can barely suppress yawns as they have seen this too many times to care. In 1970, nine female tennis players, led by the superlative Billie Jean King, broke away from the US tennis establishment to form the Virginia Slims circuit on the platform of seeking equal pay for women. It helped launch the WTA Tour, which now offers millions in global prize money. Promoters were offering fewer tournaments and substantially less prize money for women.

The straw that broke these women’s backs was the announcement by former player and promoter Jack Kramer that the Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles would pay $12,500 to the men’s champion and $1,500 to the women’s champion.

LEST WE FORGET

Recently, USA women football (yes, FOOTBALL, not “soccer”) players sued US Soccer (ugh) Federation, claiming equal pay for women and won a US$24 million settlement. They stand on the shoulders of the Virginia Slims nine.

In 1973, Cliff Drysdale and others (including Jack Kramer) were vilified for breaking away from traditional tennis to form the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). This has become the traditional organisation from which Novac Djokovic is currently being vilified for trying to create a breakaway group. Boxing has evolved from the halcyon days of lone wolf governing body World Boxing Association (WBA) until breakaway groups WBC, IBF, and WBO now all have their own “world” champions after all were greeted with hostility in their embryonic stages.

In cricket, who can forget the vitriol hurled at our own Clive Lloyd and Tony Grieg, who were chief organisers and recruiters for Kerry Packer cricket? National teams that played for Packer were banned. Chaos reigned in world cricket until traditional bodies came to their senses, agreed to better terms for players, and welcomed national sporting heroes back with open arms.

In each and every case, Goodman’s Law was the driving force. Don’t ask if it’s about the money. It’s ALWAYS about the money. Players under the thumbs of powerful national sporting organisations often have as few leverage options for improved working conditions to help support their families as do local National Water Commission workers. Sometimes, if these arrogant sporting leagues can’t hear real grievances, they must be made to feel.

As for the nonsensical argument about Saudi Arabia’s despicable human rights record, don’t get me started. Worldwide Golf tours have played big sponsored tournaments in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia; China (for example, the Volvo-sponsored China Open); and Singapore, without a whisper of concern about human rights.

English Premier League team Manchester City is owned by a holding company that’s 78 per cent owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group, but when veils are lifted, the “real” owner is UAE Royal Family member Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan whose alleged behind-the-scenes role in recent months has been to help manage relationships with Russian oligarchs looking to move money into the UAE.

Newcastle United’s new owner, again when veils are lifted, is Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (a.k.a. “MBS”).

The USA Government has enjoyed close friendly relations with Saudi Arabia for decades, including immediately after 9/11 and when MBS allegedly ordered the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Kashoggi.

But Phil Mickelson must sacrifice his family’s welfare on the altar of a one-man war against Saudi Arabian government atrocities? Give me a flipping break!

Golf’s darling Tiger Woods, winner of 15 Major Championships and still chasing history with a chance to create it, has come out in support of “legacy” “tradition”, the PGA Tour, and says he disagrees with Phil. Fair enough. Tiger may have forgotten how traditional golf treated him in his youth and how it still acts overtly and covertly to exclude as many golfers of colour as it can, but I understand how Tiger, a man whose will of steel has overcome these and many other obstacles that Phil can only imagine, might consider Phil a bit of a whiner.

The problem isn’t Tiger. Or Phil. It’s the mass of golfers who won’t ever smell the type of success Tiger or Phil has and need a bit of competition to the PGA Tour that might cause their lot to improve.

Tennis did it. Boxing did it. Cricket did it. Now it’s golf’s turn.

Peace and Love!

 

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com