Quick Bit: The PGA Tour is under investigation over whether it engaged in anticompetitive behavior, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

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As the Department of Justice has reportedly begun its investigation into whether the PGA Tour engaged in anticompetitive behavior regarding LIV Golf, the rival tour’s CEO Greg Norman has said that it is the Tour’s own fault it finds itself at the center of the investigation.

Norman told the Palm Beach Post that the investigation was a “testament to their stupidity quite honestly.”

“Instead of sitting down and taking a phone call from us and just say, ‘Hey, work this out. We can do it,'” Norman said. “It’s such an easy fix it’s ridiculous.”

Norman went on to say the PGA Tour “brought it on themselves,” and that LIV Golf has only given “independent contractors a right to earn a living doing something else” while still being part of the PGA Tour.

MORE: Graeme McDowell reveals why joined LIV for the money

The entire business model from the ground up was built to coexist within the ecosystem of golf, coexist within the majors, coexist with the DP World Tour, coexist with the PGA Tour, allowing the players to play here and play there.

What is the Department of Justice investigating the PGA Tour for?

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that agents for players had been contacted by the antitrust division of the Department of Justice regarding the Tour’s policies for player participation in non-PGA events.

The PGA Tour has suspended members that have chosen to participate in LIV Golf, an upstart golf league funded by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund. As a result, several players resigned from the Tour. The suspension lengths have not been announced.

This is the second time the PGA has been investigated by the federal government, with the first coming in 1994, with the Federal Trade Commission looking into PGA rules that prevented golfers from participating in non-PGA events without permission from the commissioner and another that tied to the appearances of golfers on televised golf programs, per the WSJ report.

The Federal Trade Commission ended its investigation in 1995.

“This was not unexpected,” the PGA Tour spokesman told the Wall Street Journal. “We went through this in 1994 and we are confident in a similar outcome.”

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Are PGA Tour players independent contractors?

A major part of LIV Golf’s pitch to the golf world has been the prospect of golfers having the freedom to choose for whom they play golf. Per the Wall Street Journal, LIV Golf sent a letter to players and agents, saying that if the PGA Tour banned players from joining LIV, it would “likely cause the federal government to investigate and punish the PGA Tour’s unlawful practices.”

“There is simply no recognized justification for banning independent contractor professional golfers for simply contracting to play professional golf,” the letter said.

PGA Tour players are, in fact, independent contractors, which gives them more liberty to choose where they might play. However, there is a PGA regulation that limits how much and where Tour players can participate in non-PGA events. PGA Tour players must request releases to play in non-PGA events, and they can receive up to three per season, so long as they are not in North America. The requests can be denied.

MORE: Billy Horschel slams LIV Golf ‘hypocrites’ for bashing PGA Tour

Sports lawyer and University of Florida teacher Darren Heitner told Golf Digest he believes the Tour has operated within the law in how it has handled those seeking to play in LIV Golf.

“I do not believe [the tour is violating antitrust laws], since the player has other options to compete, which is the basis for the ban itself,” Heitner told Golf Digest. “The PGA Tour is a non-profit organization that has the right to exclude individuals from its ranks as long as it abides by its own policies, provides no preferential treatment, and does not act in a discriminatory manner.”

There is no timetable for a resolution on this matter.

Originally found on Sporting News Read More

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