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Several LIV Golf Pros Eat Shit In Federal Court

A sign asking LIV Golf spectators to be quiet.
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Tuesday evening a federal judge ruled against three LIV Golf pros—Talor Gooch, Matt Jones, and Hudson Swafford—in their bid for an emergency injunction forcing the PGA Tour to allow them to participate in this weekend’s St. Jude Championship, in Memphis. The request for a temporary restraining order was part of an ongoing antitrust lawsuit filed by 11 LIV Golf pros, accusing the PGA Tour of engaging in anticompetitive behavior, which is a genuinely hysterical complaint to make when you are being paid tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars in upfront money by a nominally commercial enterprise operating from a position of bottomless resources and with no evident regard whatsoever for demand or profitability, or indeed anything even approaching the constraints experienced by any other business on Earth. But, uh, go off, I guess.

The argument made by these clowns was that they’d qualified for berths in the PGA Tour’s annual three-tournament playoff before departing for the outrageous paydays and entirely half-assed competitive landscape of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf, and that lying in a bed of their own making would cause them “substantial and irreparable” harm. Judge Beth Labson Freeman of the U.S. District Court of Northern California was not persuaded, noting that the three defectors were perfectly aware of the PGA Tour’s eligibility rules, and that their lucrative deals with LIV Golf compensated them specifically for lost potential income from PGA Tour events:

“It appears to the court that the LIV contracts, negotiated by the players and consummated between the parties, were based upon the players’ calculation of what they would be leaving behind and the amount the players would need to monetize to compensate for those losses. I do agree with the defendants that those losses were well known to the players at the time and clearly monetized.”

ESPN

Turns out it’s hard to make a case that you will be irreparably harmed by exclusion from a business deal if you are already being monetarily compensated, explicitly and handsomely, for that exclusion. The request for a temporary restraining order, filed August 3, described the actions taken by the PGA Tour to disqualify LIV Golf defectors from PGA Tour events as “career-threatening,” and said the defectors are being deprived of “large bonuses, big purses, substantial retirement plan payments, sponsorship, branding, and important business opportunities.” Judge Freeman, in karate-kicking these weak arguments into the toilet, found that the consequences described by the plaintiffs in their filing are, by and large, “of their own making,” and that in fact the express reason these bozos left for LIV Golf in the first place is so they could make more money than they would’ve otherwise earned on the PGA Tour: “The evidence shows that it seems almost without a doubt that they will be earning more than they have made and could reasonably have expected to make in a reasonable amount of time” had they stayed.

This ruling is satisfyingly straightforward and logical-seeming, just as a metabolism of facts and arguments. The St. Jude Championship is organized by the PGA Tour for members of the PGA Tour. Members of the LIV Golf tour, which exists to compete directly with the PGA Tour, have effectively renounced their membership in the PGA Tour, so they are not invited to participate in events organized by the PGA Tour for members of the PGA Tour. LIV Golf, in order to recruit PGA Tour members to defect and become members of LIV Golf, offers compensation well in excess of what players could reasonably expect to earn at events organized by the PGA Tour for members of the PGA Tour. So far everything we have described here is Normal Business Shit. There’s a whole thing that we will not get into here about how this stuff is only “normal” because the value of labor under capitalism is constrained by the machinery of the market, which we are taught to accept as a force of nature rather than an artifice of materialism. For one thing, this is just the way things go in North American professional sports, and Defector dot com will not long survive my rewriting Das Kapital in every third blog post. For another, whatever LIV Golf is up to it is for sure not Doing A Communism! We are moving on now!

This arrangement ceases to be Normal Business Shit at the precise moment when LIV Golf members sue in federal court to be allowed to participate in an event organized by the PGA Tour for members of the PGA Tour, on the grounds that it is unfair that the consequences of their own decisions will deprive them of business opportunities for which they have already been handsomely compensated. Workers suing to capture the greatest possible share of what the market dispenses for the value of their labor is good and righteous; workers using the courts to help an infinitely resourced, blood-soaked authoritarian monarchy run a billion-dollar undercutting scheme in order to gain dominance over the market is supremely wack. LIV Golf and its members, operating with absolute freedom from any concerns over profitability or sustainability, will have no shortage of opportunities to compete unfairly and unsquarely with the PGA Tour, without also demanding that a federal court allow them to do it from within PGA Tour events.

As far as the antitrust complaint’s main thrust—that the PGA Tour is engaged in broadly anticompetitive behavior—judge Freeman reportedly told the plaintiffs Tuesday that the earliest availability for a trial is more than a year from now, in September 2023, by which time the 11 LIV Golf pros named in the complaint will have already missed the signature PGA Tour events into which they are hoping to force access. Denied!

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