Why are the Fire sticking with Arlo White?

White, who works a handful of Fire games and co-hosts a team-produced podcast, joined the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour as its lead play-by-play announcer.

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Arlo White throws out a ceremonial first pitch before a Cubs game last season.

The Fire are sticking with Arlo White even though the broadcaster has joined the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour as its lead announcer.

Paul Beaty/AP

The Fire are sticking with Arlo White even though the broadcaster has joined the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour as its lead announcer.

Knowing LIV Golf’s noxious links, is keeping White around worth it for a struggling franchise?

White, the former voice of NBC’s Premier League coverage before reportedly being dropped last month, works a handful of games on WGN when his schedule permits. He also hosts a team-affiliated podcast with regular play-by-play announcer Tyler Terens.

Via an Instagram message, White told the Sun-Times he is “delighted to still be calling Fire games this summer” but declined to comment on any potential backlash for joining LIV Golf. The Fire declined to comment further other than to confirm that White is still affiliated with the club and that they were aware of his decision before it became public.

When the Fire first brought in White in 2020, it seemed like a significant coup. A team trying to rebuild its good name in the city had landed a voice recognized by any soccer fan in America. Even better, White is an avowed Chicago sports fan who speaks fondly of the Bears and Cubs. He also has a recurring role on the Apple TV+ hit “Ted Lasso,” further adding to his celebrity.

But after the announcement Monday, White’s name and reputation could be permanently tarnished by working for LIV Golf. If the Fire follow through and keep employing White, who’s under contract for the rest of the year, they might be jeopardizing some goodwill for a few games and podcasts, productions that would feature a voice plenty of listeners will now associate with a sullied venture outside of soccer.

In doing so, the Fire risk undermining the community work they’ve done, including some initiatives that would be opposed by LIV Golf’s Saudi financiers. They also would be providing publicity for someone who takes a check from a group notorious for trying to use sports to paper over horrific crimes.

With Greg Norman as its CEO, LIV Golf is bankrolled by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. LIV Golf has been labeled as an example of “sportswashing,” a term invoked when repressive governments use sports to sanitize their image for the rest of the world. The Saudi government is responsible for numerous human-rights offenses, including torturing and murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 and carrying out the mass execution of 81 men earlier this year.

The nascent tour has used its unlimited bank account to recruit golf stars, including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

PIF also was accused of trying to sportswash last October, when it bought Premier League side Newcastle United, sparking outrage in England.

Directly or indirectly, those golfers and Newcastle supporters who embraced their club’s takeover have associated themselves with a brutally repressive regime. White has done the same, joining a startup league that’s so toxic it hasn’t even secured air time on an American broadcast network. The first LIV Golf event this week in London will be available in the United States only on its website, YouTube and Facebook.

Others who have joined LIV Golf have faced consequences for their actions. Mickelson, who called the Saudis “scary [expletive] to get involved with” but still supported the project, lost endorsement deals despite his former standing as one of golf’s most marketable stars.

At least for the time being, it appears that White’s voice still will be heard on Fire broadcasts. Even if it will be incredibly difficult for the Fire to market him now.

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