U.S. law firm is latest to pull golf sponsorship over Saudi-backed tour

St. Andrews, SCT; Jason Kokrak tees off on the third hole during the first round of the 150th Open Championship golf tournament at St. Andrews Old Course, Jul 14, 2022. Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports – 18695466

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(Reuters) – U.S. law firm Cozen O’Connor said Thursday that it has dropped its sponsorship of golfer Jason Kokrak after he left the PGA Tour to join the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The move comes amid a wider rift in the professional golfing world over the new LIV Golf series, which has lured players with the promise of guaranteed, big-money paydays and a reduced schedule.

Cozen said Thursday that it had “mutually agreed” with Kokrak that he will no longer serve as an “ambassador” for its brand, citing Kokrak’s decision Wednesday to affiliate with the new LIV tour.

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Professional sports sponsorships by major U.S. law firms are rare, but Cozen began sponsoring PGA Tour golfers in 2017 with William McGirt.

A Cozen representative did not immediately respond to a request for more information on its decision. A spokesperson for the U.S.-based PGA Tour said it “had nothing to do with this (nor any other sponsor relationships that have been severed with LIV players along the way).”

A spokesperson for LIV Golf did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The next LIV event will be hosted at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster from July 29-31.

Since LIV Golf’s launch last year, the PGA Tour and its European counterpart, the DP World Tour, have suspended members who have opted to join the breakaway circuit. Some sponsors have followed suit: Bridgestone Golf, a U.S. sports equipment company, said it ended its partnership with Bryson DeChambeau last week after DeChambeau joined the LIV Golf series.

Forbes reported in June that Rocket Mortgage, the Royal Bank of Canada and UPS had dropped players for their involvement with LIV Golf. Accounting firm KPMG ended its sponsorship of Phil Mickelson in February over comments he made about the Saudi backing of the LIV Golf series.

In addition to concerns over the future of the PGA Tour, critics say LIV Golf, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, amounts to “sportswashing” by a country trying to counterbalance the reputational effects of human rights abuses.

Cozen, and its founder and chairman Stephen Cozen, represented families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in litigation against Saudi Arabia, alleging it provided material support to al Qaeda.

Read More:

DeChambeau and Bridgestone part ways after move to LIV Golf

Mickelson offers sympathy as 9/11 families slam move to Saudi-backed tour

Mickelson apologises for ‘reckless’ comments on Saudi-backed league

U.S. court revives 9/11 victims’ case against Saudi Arabia

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