NFL rules prohibit foreign investment in franchises. But rules were made to be disregarded, when sufficiently profitable to do so.
Tuesday’s stunning news that the PGA Tour and LIV golf have settled their differences with a merger that is more akin to a LIV buyout shows that everything and everyone has a price. At a certain price, everything and everyone is for sale.
So, yes, the Public Investment Fund (the formal name of the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia) can get into the NFL if it wants. And if it has to set up a competing league to light the fuse, so be it.
It worked in golf. Why wouldn’t it work in football?
Again, they have to want it. If they truly do, they can pull it off.
The NFL, after decades of rule changes aimed at making the game safer, has risked the arrival of a competitor with players and fans that embrace “old-school football.” The Public Investment Fund could start there, if blocked in the effort to buy a team. If they want one.
Everything and everyone has a price. At a certain figure, the NFL’s owners will look the other way. Money changes everything, including positions that presumably would never change.
Look at the things the PGA Tour said about LIV golf, leaning far into Saudi Arabia’s connections to 9/11. Now, consider the things NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said about the potential legalization of betting on pro football, when Delaware tried to challenge the federal law preventing states from embracing it in 2009: “Normal incidents of the game such as bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, penalty flags and play calling inevitably will fuel speculation, distrust and accusations of point-shaving and game-fixing.”
Eight years later, the Supreme Court upheld New Jersey’s challenge to that same federal law, opening the floodgates of legalized gambling — and causing the NFL to dramatically change its position, once it realized there was much money to be made from this new reality.
The LIV golf cash grab represents another new reality that can be parlayed into a ton of money. And if the Saudis keep putting more and more and more money on the table, eventually the league would change “no” to “yes.”
It all starts with whether the Saudis want in. If they do, and if they’re willing to invest unlimited cash into the effort, there will eventually be a number that causes those who own the NFL’s teams to tell Goodell to earn some more of his own annual compensation package by being the pin cushion for any and all criticism that would flow from the many millions, if not billions, to be earned by simply doing business with folks who have a ton of money and are willing to spend it on football. If they want to.
No one knows at this point whether they want to. It’s now obvious that, if they do, there’s an easy way to make it happen.
Make them an offer they happily won’t refuse.