Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

Sanctimony Comes To Golf

June 11th, 2022 No comments


With all of the ongoing vexations occurring in the world today, the latest headline grabber comes from the sports world.  As we all know, the world of ‘sports’ has changed dramatically over the last few generations, evolving from earnest competitions among talented participants to become grossly commercial endeavours pitting billionaires vs billionaires and their stables of ponies.  Sports is big business and most everyone in the world is a fan of some kind of sports activity.

Worldwide, but especially in the US, sports is not a pastime of leisure, or of dilettantes.  It is serious business as virtually every college and university in America has a sports program that is the farm system for players hoping to turn professional.  None of these programs would exist if not for the monetization potential of any particular sport.  I suppose the javelin toss and hammer throw could be the exceptions.  They’ve yet to make the televising of throwing spears or iron balls appealing to the masses…. but maybe one day.

There is no question that money is the lifeblood for sports; we’ve become accustomed to eye popping sums offered to professional athletes based on their perceived ability to fill a stadium, draw TV viewership or hawk products.

One of the few sports to have escaped (somewhat) this crass commercialism was golf. Sure, the players wore logo’d shirts and hats, but the players were always portrayed as gentlemen whose goals were loftier than just the prize cheque for winning a tournament.  It was good enough to be recognized as good.  Or it was… until money started to drive the game, which began with Arnold Palmer and ultimately with the monetization of Tiger Woods.  As the game changed from the genteel sentiments of Bobby Jones to the present day “Nascar-ing” of the sport, money has become the dominant influence of the game.  Forget Titleist or Callaway, the number one driver in golf….is money.

The recent uproar in the genteel golf world laid bare this reality as an upstart league, the LIV tour, backed by wealthy Saudis, sought to lure top tier players away from the long established PGA tour by offering eye watering amounts of money to play in their tournaments.  To illustrate the lure, consider that Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest in the history of the game, won 18 major tournaments along with 82 regular victories.  His total earnings for his career amounts to just over 120 million dollars.  Dustin Johnson, with only a fraction of Wood’s success was offered 125 million dollars, just to come over to the new league. I’m not going to judge Johnson’s sense of allegiance or values, but we all know, he isn’t going to win 18 majors and 82 tournaments in his career.  The same is true for all of the other notable names that have elected to forgo the PGA brand for the LIV offering.  In other words, these athletes are doing what every other athlete does in any other sport, they go to the highest bidder.  Money has affected golf; what a shock!

Of course the other criticism levelled against the defecting players is that they are supporting a regime which has an abysmal record on human rights.  Not only that, but the Saudis are the source of nationals responsible for terror attacks on the US.  None of those accusations are unfounded.   But as in most narratives, there is the other side of the coin.  Nike, one of the biggest sponsors of players on the PGA tour, (and in fact all sports) manufacture most of their gear in China, a nation which pays as much attention to human rights as Italian drivers do to stop signs.

You could argue that the big money paid to elite athletes sponsored by Nike are in fact off the backs of suffering worker bees oppressed in China.  It’s somewhat akin to the superiority that drivers of electric cars feel over petrol drivers, even though their electricity is made from burning coal.  If we’re going to demonize nations for their repressive actions, that’s fair.  It’s also fair to then point out the repressions in all nations, including the US and Canada, oft considered paragons of liberty.

It’s fair to say that the past two years have seen the most repressive human rights agendas perpetrated by these very nations that most vocally protest the deeds of the Saudis.  As of this writing, Canada for example, has yet to allow all of its citizens from leaving the country. Certain parts of the US still force people to inject harmful products into their bodies in order to work.  Bank accounts are seized over actions critical to the governments.  I don’t expect PGA players to refuse cheques issued by sponsors in these countries.

Both arguments against the defecting players are hypocritical.  No one amongst us would pass on an offer of significantly higher income for doing the same thing.  That is illogical. If we expect these guys to play for the love of the sport, then people should also be expected to work because they love accounting.  As for the association with human rights thuggery; have a look around; objects are closer than they appear.


All Talk And No Action

June 1st, 2012 No comments

link Kofi Annan’s Legacy Threatened by Syria’s Violence –

I’m sure most people in the world didn’t even know that Kofi Annan had a legacy to preserve.  They may vaguely recognize the name as the figurehead secretary general of the U.N. for a number of years.  The article quotes colleagues in describing his main attributes, “…an engaging personality, ability to convey empathy and a forceful advocate of basic human rights…”  In addition, supporters say,

“…He’s a very experienced diplomat and he’s very good at getting on with people,” Mr. Mortimer said in a telephone interview. “He’s somebody who’s difficult to have a row with. He actually had a paperweight on his desk with the slogan: ‘Diplomacy is the art of letting the other guy have it your way… ”

There’s nothing in the promo that says anything about success.  The characteristics used to describe Mr. Annan can as easily be attributed to Mr. Rogers, my 4th grade teacher Miss Klassen or the gal at the Burger King down the street.  I don’t know who is responsible for embellishing the legacy of Mr. Annan, but any pretensions that he has one at all, much less one to be proud of, is pure revisionist fantasy.  A very quick look at the website, will show that currently, there are dozens if not multiple dozens of armed conflicts with their attendant human rights transgressions going on in the world right now.  (It’s amusing enough that someone keeps track of this stuff).  The record of the U.N.’s success at enforcing human rights worldwide is dubious at best.

So, which part of Annan’s legacy is in danger?   Sure he’s had an improbable climb to his exalted position, from humble beginnings as a tour guide to defender of human rights for the world.   I guess he was the right guy for the job.  We’ll agree that when trying to intervene during armed conflicts, we do need a calming voice to exhort ‘both sides to show restraint’, even when the conflict is laughingly lopsided.  Such is presently the case in Syria now when government forces are cavalierly executing and torturing their own citizens.  The victims have to show some restraint from bleeding and dying  if the conflict can be resolved peacefully.   Or in the case of many African tribal wars, where victims have to be more considerate by not having limbs chopped off.

No rational person can blame Annan,  or the U.N. for that matter,  for their inability to stop wars.  Warfare at some level is part of the human condition from the first time someone figured out how to swing a stick.   But let’s not pretend that Annan, like his successor Ban Ki Moon are anything but bureaucrats who are installed for political reasons to convey some sense of moral authority to the U.N.  They may not actually do anything, but at least they express moral outrage.  Sort of like Gary Bettman.  People such as Annan, Ban Ki Moon  and most all bureaucrats are fortunate that the pay regime at the U.N. is based on effort and not on real results as in most legitimate organizations.  If it was based on results, he’d have been better off in the tour guide business.