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PGA Tour says adios to Trump Doral

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Over the last two weeks Miami has gained a major sporting event and lost another. Last week, the National Football League announced Miami will reap the economic benefits of hosting the Super Bowl in 2020.

This week, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) revealed the World Golf Championships Tournament will leave Miami and move to Mexico City beginning next spring. Such an announcement should normally be a ho-hum happening, but these are not normal times.

Trump National Doral has hosted this event featuring the game’s top players since 2007. Since presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is involved in the decision, nothing is ho-hum.

If the event had relocated to Europe, or Japan, or Australia, this announcement goes no further than the sports pages. But don’t worry, says PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, Trump has nothing to do with this.

“Some of the reaction revolves around the feeling that this is a political exercise, and it is not that in any way, shape or form,” said Finchem. “The decision here was based on the reality that we are not able to secure sponsorship for next year’s WGC at Doral or for years out for that matter.”

In business transactions, especially the contracts of professional athletes, we often hear “it’s not about the money.” You can take it to the bank that it’s about the money.

In this case, the commissioner says it’s not about the politics. It’s about the money.

Perhaps every potential sponsor the PGA pitched was saying they would not touch anything involving Trump. According to The Washington Post, Finchem admitted something close to that.

“Donald Trump is a brand — a big brand — and when you are asking a (sponsor) to invest millions of dollars in branding a tournament and they’re going to share that brand with a host … it’s a difficult conversation.”

Finchem then slightly contradicted himself from his previous assurance. He admitted “the politics may have contributed some” to the ultimate decision to move to Mexico.

It is not the first time the PGA Tour has pulled an event from the Trump empire. In 2015 the Grand Slam of Golf event was moved from a Trump resort in Los Angeles.

Trump has a knack for turning off people who might think he gets a raw deal sometimes. Here is a reminder why it might have been tough to line up sponsors.

“They’re moving it to Mexico City — which, by the way, I hope they have kidnapping insurance,” he said on the Fox News Hannity program.

The new host for the next seven years is Grupo Salinas, a Mexican conglomerate led by founder and chairman Ricardo Salinas and his son, Benjamin. The event is now named World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.

With the announcement, Salinas acted in ways that Trump would clearly understand. He took to Twitter to say Trump was “welcome to join us at the WGC. Only good things turn out, if you know the real Mexico.”

The world’s third-ranked golfer, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, showed why this story belongs on the news, politics, editorial and sports pages with this gem:

“It’s quite ironic we’re going to Mexico after being at Doral,” said McIlroy. “We’ll just jump over the wall.”

Not that politics had anything to do with any of this.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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