Sellout Culture Is a Problem for Pro Golf
Even if you don’t play or follow golf — which I don’t — you’re probably aware of the controversy now engulfing the game. A number of the world’s top-ranked pro players, notably Phil Mickelson, made extremely lucrative deals to play in a new tour, the LIV Golf International Series, sponsored by Saudi Arabia. The PGA Tour, which has traditionally dominated the sport, responded by suspending 17 of these players.
The Saudis are obviously engaged in reputation-laundering — greenswashing? — in an attempt to make people forget about the atrocities their regime has perpetrated. It’s less clear what motivated the PGA. Did it consider the LIV series flawed, not a proper golf tour? Was it attempting to squash competition? Or was the problem with the LIV series’ sponsors?
PGA attendees surveyed by ProGolf weekly were in no doubt: An overwhelming majority attributed Mickelson’s exclusion to “media/cancel culture.” And I hope they’re right. I mean, if getting paid big bucks to provide favorable PR to a regime that deals with critical journalists by killing them and dismembering them with a bone saw doesn’t warrant cancellation, what does? And yet Mickelson and others were willing to provide that PR.
So if you ask me, the real story here isn’t that the PGA may (or may not) have found a line it won’t cross. It is that so many members of the American elite evidently have no such lines.
What explains the rise of sellout culture? Tax cuts may have played a role: Selling your soul becomes more attractive when you get to keep more of the proceeds. Soaring income inequality may inspire envy, a desire to keep up with the super-elite. And there is surely a process of normalization: Everyone else is selling out, so why shouldn’t I join the party?
Kids used to look up to public figures, sports stars in particular, as role models. Do they still? Can they, given what public figures will do if the checks are big enough?
文／Paul Krugman 譯／陳韋廷