LANCASTER, Mass. – Art Shaughnessy and his son, Donovan, stood in a line of people at the Bolton Fairgrounds Friday morning, waiting to board shuttle buses to the LIV Golf Invitational Boston in nearby Bolton.
It’s the latest event in the new LIV Golf series that’s getting a lot of attention.
Not only for its big-names like Phil Mickelson and Cameron Smith, the second-ranked golfer in the word, but also because the series is financially backed by the government of Saudi Arabia with its reported lengthy list of human-rights abuses.
“No, I haven’t really noticed them,” said Shaughnessy when asked about a group of protesters just off to his right, in a nearby area of the fairgrounds, the only official parking area for visitors.
“I’m really here for the golf,” he said.
That feeling was echoed by others who stood in line. Some said it’s hypocritical to single out this event when other sports leagues receive money from countries with reported human rights abuses.
“Go ask the PGA what they’re backed by. It’s probably China,” said Susan Barnes, who came all the way from Elba, Alabama.
“Tell the protesters they don’t know what they’re talking about,” she said.
Lone protest group
Massachusetts Peace Action was the only group of protesters at the Fairground on Friday morning, which was the only area event organizers allowed protesters to be.
The group numbered less than a dozen, holding signs and banners that said, “Saudi Money is Blood Money” and “Saudi Arabia kills journalists and kids in Yemen.”
“The main reason we’re here is that Saudi Arabia funds this golf tournament,” said Paul Shannon, who sits on the group’s executive committee. “It’s one of the most repressive governments on earth.”
The 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Boston at The International. (Photo: Richard Cashin-USA TODAY Sports)
Kevin Moulton stood just outside a fence that separated him from visitors as they lined up to board shuttle buses.
A member of Massachusetts Peace Action, Moulton quietly held out protest materials in his right hand as visitors walked past. Only three people grabbed one.
Some in line appeared annoyed by Moulton standing there. One man said, “We get gas from Saudi Arabia, and [former President Bill] Clinton gave money to them in the 1990s.”
Another man said, “The PGA takes a lot of Saudi money, too.”
“I’m here to educate people and let them know where the money is coming from,” said Moulton, adding that the Massachusetts Senate team of Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, plus Worcester US Rep. Jim McGovern, should have joined the protesters.
“I wish there were more protesters here, but we’re doing the best we can,” said Shannon.
Message sinking in?
When asked if their message was getting across to those in line who seemed to be more interested in getting to the event, protester Paul Garber of Acton said the “ordinary person will say blood money from Saudi Arabia is a bunch of crap.”
As for LIV Golf, and whether it’s hearing their message from the course that is several miles away from the designated protest area at the fairgrounds, Garber believes LIV is getting so much money from Saudi Arabia that “they don’t give a damn.”
“This should be embarrassing to America generally that this [golf tournament backed by Saudi Arabia] is going on,” said Garber.
Back in the line, visitors patiently waited their turn to hop on a shuttle bus, but when the topic of Saudi Arabia was brought up, golf fan Bob Jones didn’t hold back.
“There are other countries with human rights abuses that own property in this country. It’s a free country, and people can do what they want.”
Protestors with Massachusetts Peace Action hold signs of protest of the 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Boston in Bolton, Massachusetts. (Photo: Rick Cinclair/Telegram & Gazette)
“Two sides to every story” is how Ellie Leonard described her feelings about LIV Golf and its connection to Saudi Arabia.
Her husband, Chris, focused on the sunny morning and the fun that they paid to see at The International.
“We’re not here for politics. We’re here for good times, and we want to see some great golf.”
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek