A Primer on Sportswashing in Golf (ft. Will Bardwell and Dr. Helen Lenskyj)

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is making major inroads in professional golf. It holds lucrative annual events, funds a 10-event series on the Asian Tour, and hopes to lure the world’s best male players to a proposed Super Golf League. Recently, the SGL initiative has taken a hit because of Phil Mickelson’s loose lips, but Saudi Arabia appears committed to its golf strategy, and it’s clear that the country is engaged in a practice known as “sportswashing.” As one of our guests, Dr. Helen Lenskyj, defines it, sportswashing involves “attempts on the part of authoritarian regimes to improve their tarnished global reputations through sport.” It is important for golf fans to understand this concept because the Saudis aren’t going anywhere.

We have two guests today: Dr. Lenskyj, an academic researcher who focuses on the relationship between sports and global politics; and Will Bardwell, a civil rights attorney and golf writer.

Time stamps:

2:49—Will Bardwell interview, part 1

13:11—Helen Lenskyj interview

30:25—Will Bardwell interview, part 2

Reading material:

Will Bardwell, “Blind Men and Blood

Helen Lenskyj, The Olympic Games: A Critical Approach

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