The awkward question surrounding sportspeople and their participation in events in Saudi Arabia has once again reared its head, and Ireland's Shane Lowry is the latest to speak on the matter.
Irish golfer Lowry is among those travelling to the outskirts of Jeddah for next month's Saudi International on the Asian Tour, and today the Offaly man defended his choice to travel to the tournament.
Shane Lowry defends stance on Saudi International
When the entry list for the Saudi International was released late last year, some of the standout names included Irish golfers Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell, with fellow Irishman Rory McIlroy a notable exception.
The Saudi Arabian question is undoubtedly an awkward one, and it has become a recurring theme in the world of sport in recent months. The recent takeover of Newcastle United by a Saudi consortium was lamented by most Premier League fans, given the country's continually appalling human rights record. It is only just over three years since the murder of a journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and the country continues to have backward stances towards women and the LGBTQ+ community.
Just over a month since the country controversially hosted a round of the Formula 1 world championship, the uncomfortable reality behind hosting major events in Saudi Arabia is once again a pressing issue for the sporting world.
Offaly native Shane Lowry was quizzed on his participation today, and attempted to justify his decision to take part in the contentious event.
Look, obviously there's no hiding from the people writing about this tournament or what they're saying about us going to play, but at the end of the day for me I'm not a politician, I'm a professional golfer.
I earn a living for myself and my family and try and take care of those, and this is just a part of that.
I'm happy to go there. I'm happy to earn my living going there and going and playing good golf and hopefully win a tournament.
Lowry's fellow Irishman McDowell was the winner of the Saudi International in 2020, and he spoke this week to SI about his belief that the ever-increasing Saudi investment in golf is only going to push the likes of the PGA Tour to improve. He said:
Golf Saudi has created multiple conversations within golf around the world, which have made, take the PGA Tour example, they are trying to be a better version of themselves. I think it's evolution.
The controversy surrounding the event is not only due to the contention surrounding its host country, but also stems from the investment McDowell sought to defend earlier this week. The concept of "sportswashing" is a term that has been heard many times in the aftermath of the Newcastle takeover and inaugural Saudi Grand Prix, and we imagine its a term Shane Lowry and co. may have to contend with regularly in the coming weeks.
The Saudi International gets underway on February 3 2022, with a prize of $5million on the line.