‘Shame on Them’: Family Members of 9/11 Victims Speak Out at LIV Golf Tournament at Pumpkin Ridge
When Forest Grove Mayor Peter Truax learned that the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series was making its first stop in the United States at North Plains, “the hair on the back of the neck fell. lifted”.
On Thursday, the day the golf series kicked off at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, he stood alongside other local elected officials and 11 family members who lost loved ones on 9/11 during a a press conference near the course to denounce the tournament’s links with Saudi Arabia. and its history of human rights violations.
The golf series, which features golf stars like Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, has caught the attention of US Senator Ron Wyden and others because it is funded by the Middle East country’s sovereign wealth fund, which is affiliated with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the country. government.
Recently declassified US intelligence reports linked some 9/11 hijackers to Saudi nationals, which their government called a coincidence, and the US intelligence community said the crown prince approved the operation. 2018 which murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote articles for the Washington Post, which the Saudis have also denied.
One by one, family members of 9/11 victims who traveled to Oregon from other states, shared stories of their loved ones at the press conference and accused the Saudi regime of turning themselves in to “sportswashing”, a way for the country to improve its reputation. in the West by hosting a popular sporting event. They wore red and blue hats that read “9/11 justice.”
“As a child, your parents are your whole world,” said Gabrielle Scauso, whose father was one of hundreds of firefighters who died in the attack on the World Trade Center towers. “My father was mine.” She spoke through tears as her sister, Juliette, stood by her side.
Kimberly Aiken, whose husband was killed in the attacks, stood with her daughter, Terrease, and two sons, Andre and Kanian. “Families are still hurting,” she said. “We just want justice. We want the truth. We want accountability.
Brett Eagleson, who led an effort to declassify 9/11 documents, took aim at some of the golfers who said at press conferences that they were attending just to play golf. “Shame on them,” he said. “I invite them to look at the pain in our eyes, to listen to our stories, to walk in our place.”
The families said they want the golfers to recognize their financial relationship with the Saudi government and waive their membership in LIV Golf. They praised golfers who turned down paydays, including Tiger Woods, Scottie Scheffler and Rory Mcllroy, according to media reports.
Those who signed up received nine-figure bonuses, Mickelson reportedly won $200 million. The 48-player field will compete as individuals and teams for a $25 million purse – with the individual champion taking home $4 million and the final winner $120,000. The top team will split $3 million.
“What I would say to Phil is how rewarding would it be if you could stand in solidarity with the families and help us get justice?” asked Eagleson. “So it’s worth $200 million?”
The families said none of the golfers reached out to them, and they attempted to speak to a golfer from his hotel, before security chased them away. Eagleson said there are no plans to stop the fights as they will travel to Bedminster, New Jersey, the next location on the seven-city tour.
Escalante Golf, owner of Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for LIV Golf, Allen Barrett, expressed sympathy for the families in a written statement. “Golf is a force for good that entertains and teaches the values of fair play, competition and excellence through hard work,” the statement read. “We understand and respect that not everyone will agree with us, but we deeply believe that golf is a force for good and we look forward to continuing our efforts to grow the game in the United States. And in the world.”
Also present at the press conference were North Plains Mayor Teri Lenahan and Oregon State Senator Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, whose district includes North Plains.
“Think about where that money is coming from,” Sollman said. “Think of the pain of these families.”
Wyden, in his review, cited the Saudi kingdom’s alleged role in helping its citizens facing criminal prosecution in the United States to leave the country. The Oregonian/OregonLive in 2019 found more than two dozen cases in which Saudi students studying in the United States left the country while facing felony charges.
One of the suspects, Abdulrahman Sameer Norah, a student at Portland Community College, disappeared weeks before his 2017 trial in the hit-and-run death of 15-year-old Fallon Smart. Noorah was later found in Saudi Arabia.
Family members called out Smart’s name at the press conference and said his case looked like another example of Saudi Arabia’s intervention and lack of accountability.
“The Saudi atrocities,” said Scauso, the daughter of a 9/11 victim, “were not limited to New York City.”
–Zaïm Cheikh; [email protected]; 503-221-8111; @zaeemshake