Team Hy Flyers Phil Mickelson of the United States speaks to the media after the first round of the LIV Golf Invitational Opening, June 9, 2022.
Paul Childs | Work photos via Reuters
Eleven professional golfers filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Wednesday after they were suspended from playing on the tour due to their participation in the Saudi-backed LIV League.
Complaint filed with the US District Court for the Northern District of California, An ongoing battle escalates between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.
Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter and Talor Gooch, among others, allege in the filing that the restrictive PGA policies are an attempt to stifle the supply of professional golfers to LIV, thus limiting LIV’s ability to compete with the Tour.
Golfers are asking for their suspension to be lifted and an unspecified monetary compensation. Three of the plaintiffs – Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones – are also seeking a temporary restraining order against the Tour allowing them to participate in the FedEx Cup qualifiers for which they have qualified starting next week.
“These suspended players – who are now employees of the Saudi Golf League – have walked away from the tour and now want to return,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan wrote Wednesday in a note to members. “Allowing re-entry into our events is detrimental to the Tour and the competition, to the detriment of our organisation, our players, our partners, and our fans.”
Mickelson suspended the tour in March for recruiting players to LIV Golf, according to the complaint. In June, the tour dismissed Mickelson’s appeal of the decision – reported at the time as a preliminary suspension – and Banned an additional 16 players from participating in league events to playing in the LIV Golf Tournament without the appropriate media passes.
Mickelson has faced criticism for the human rights violations surrounding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and has admitted to itbut defended LIV Golf as a necessary disruptor for the PGA Tour.
The lawsuit highlights what it describes as restricted media rights and conflicting events regulations in characterizing the PGA Tour as a “established monopolist with a vicious grip on professional golf” carrying out a “carefully orchestrated plan to defeat the competition.”
The complaint alleges that, beyond suspension and regulations, the PGA Tour threatened sponsors, sellers and agents to force players to leave LIV Golf, which is funded primarily by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
“Players are right to take this action to defy PGA’s anti-competitive rules and defend their rights as independent contractors to play wherever and whenever they choose,” LIV Golf said in a statement. “Despite the efforts of the PGA Tour to stifle competition, we believe that golfers should be allowed to play golf.”
Last month, the PGA Tour confirmed The Department of Justice is also investigating potential antitrust violations linked to LIV Golf.
while, The PGA Tour has been putting pressure on lawmakers and White House officialsYou are pressing to oppose the Saudi League.
CNBC’s Dan Mangan and Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.
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