Rory McIlroy: Golfers were wrong to object to Saudi Arabia’s odd involvement in event


Rory McIlroy, one of the world’s most recognizable golfers, made the unusual choice to withdraw from a Saudi Arabian event at the last minute this month, when he became angered by what he said was an invitation to play in a tournament that had been altered to meet the requirements of Saudi Arabia’s religious authorities. (Because the event was being run by Saudi Arabia’s Nitaqat government organization, it was ultimately cancelled.)

But in an interview with the Guardian published Sunday, McIlroy, who claimed to have been unfairly blamed for scuttling the event for his Catholic beliefs, said that it was players, not the Saudi government, who had failed to see the problems that the National Sport Authority of Saudi Arabia was promoting with the event.

While presenting his former sponsor Nike as the sponsor that made a real stand against the planned tournament, McIlroy said: “I think it is players who are looking at this and saying we really shouldn’t be going there. It has become a bit of a big political football.”

“Obviously Nike knew when I was under contract with them that I believed what I believed about political and religion issues, but I didn’t ask for the contract to be extended. I had just finished my run, and I was on my way to the airport and I was sitting on the flight, and I just sort of woke up one morning and thought, ‘I really shouldn’t be doing this.’ So I just switched my ticket over to Qatar.”

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which all women are required to wear the black abaya.

“I was passionate about it,” McIlroy added. “I went out, I trained, I felt ready, and all of a sudden I go through the door and my home becomes the TV in my hotel room. My kid’s name was Carson on the T-shirt, and it went viral for a while. … It was upsetting because if people would stop and think about it and put themselves in my position, and be able to share my feeling, then it could be debated differently now.”

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