9/11 Families Denounce ‘Sportswashing’ Saudi Golf Deal

While relatives of people killed on Sept. 11 expressed outrage, some members of U.S. Congress welcomed news of the PGA-LIV Golf merger, which comes in a week when the U.S. secretary of state was visiting the Saudi kingdom.

9/11 tribute. (David Z from Pixabay)

By Brett Wilkins
Common Dreams

Relatives of people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and 9/11 survivors said this week that they are “shocked and deeply offended” by a newly announced merger between the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit, a deal widely condemned as “sportswashing” one of the world’s worst human rights violators.

In an agreement that will end years of acrimony and litigation, PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) — which owns LIV Golf — surprised the world of golf and beyond by announcing late Tuesday that they are merging into “a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity.”

PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan — who last year asked players considering leaving the PGA for LIV Golf if they’ve “ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour” — told CNBC on Tuesday that he’s now “recognized that together, we can have a far greater impact on this game than we can working apart.”

Human rights advocates excoriated Monahan and the deal. [Monahan had previously criticized the Saudi-owned LIV on behalf of the 9/11 families.]  Terry Strada, who chairs the 9/11 Families United coalition and whose husband Tom died in the attack on the World Trade Center, said in a statement that “Monahan co-opted the 9/11 community last year in the PGA’s unequivocal agreement that the Saudi LIV project was nothing more than sportswashing of Saudi Arabia’s reputation.”

“But now the PGA and Monahan appear to have become just more paid Saudi shills, taking billions of dollars to cleanse the Saudi reputation so that Americans and the world will forget how the kingdom spent their billions of dollars before 9/11 to fund terrorism, spread their vitriolic hatred of Americans, and finance al-Qaeda and the murder of our loved ones,” Strada continued. “Make no mistake — we will never forget.”

[Related: Forgetting Why Al-Qaeda Spread and Saudi Arabia Coerces US Over 9/11]

“Mr. Monahan talked last summer about knowing people who lost loved ones on 9/11, then wondered aloud on national television whether LIV golfers ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour,” Strada added. “They do now — as does he. PGA Tour leaders should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and greed. Our entire 9/11 community has been betrayed by Commissioner Monahan and the PGA as it appears their concern for our loved ones was merely window-dressing in their quest for money—it was never to honor the great game of golf.”

Some members of the U.S. Congress — a body that responded to 9/11 by voting overwhelmingly to authorize an open-ended war that experts say has claimed millions of lives — welcomed the PGA-LIV Golf merger, among them Reps. Jim Clyburn (D) and Nancy Mace (R), both of South Carolina. 

“Obviously Saudi money being involved… you know, I’d have some concerns over that,” Mace, who chairs the Congressional Golf Caucus, told HuffPost. “But look at my district—we’ve got over 30 golf courses.”

Former President Donald Trump — whose golf courses have hosted LIV Golf events — called the deal “big, beautiful, and glamorous” for the sport. 

Other lawmakers — mostly Democrats — condemned the merger. 

“Hypocrisy doesn’t begin to describe this brazen, shameless cash grab,” Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) tweeted. “I’m going to dive into every piece of Saudi Arabia’s deal with the PGA. U.S. officials need to consider whether a deal will give the Saudi regime inappropriate control or access to U.S. real estate.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) accused the PGA Tour of paying “lip service” to uplifting the game of golf, which will be used “unabashedly by [Saudi Arabia] to distract from its many crimes.”

Ruled for generations by the House of Saud under Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia perennially scores near the bottom of most international human rights indices. Women, religious and sexual minorities, and political dissidents are especially repressed. “Crimes” including apostasy — renouncing Islam — blasphemy, witchcraft, prostitution, and even adultery are punishable by death, often by public beheading.

Abroad, Saudi Arabia leads a U.S.-backed coalition intervening in Yemen’s civil war, in which nearly 400,000 people have been killed. Despite pledging to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” during his 2020 presidential campaign, U.S. President Joe Biden has, like his predecessors going back to the first half of the 20th century, continued friendly and highly lucrative relations with the monarchy.

[Related: Seismic Iran-Saudi Rapprochement Isolates US]

According to U.S. intelligence agencies, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the 2018 kidnapping and brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist with permanent U.S. residency. Biden angered many human rights advocates by moving to protect the crown prince from accountability. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently in Saudi Arabia, where he met with bin Salman in Jeddah Tuesday. Blinken said the pair “discussed deepening economic cooperation, especially in the clean energy and technology fields,” while emphasizing that “our bilateral relationship is strengthened by progress on human rights.”

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


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14 comments for “9/11 Families Denounce ‘Sportswashing’ Saudi Golf Deal

  1. DMCP
    June 9, 2023 at 07:16

    Enough of the sanctimonious moralizing. The US has lost its standing to criticize the behavior of any other country, including Saudi Arabia. And what is really annoying the US about Saudi Arabia right now is not golf but oil, and the increasing reluctance of the Saudis to act as US tools in the manipulation of oil prices. The most notable of which in recent years was the collapse of oil prices beginning in August of 2014, which wrecked the economy of Venezuela and badly hurt the economies of Russia and Iran. (Disrupting the oil shale industry in the US was a side effect). I have not seen any credible analysis of that event in the general news media; it is waved off as a case of oil over-supply leading to price drop.

    As if the oil over-supply were not noticed until suddenly in August, and then the market just reacted as a reflex. The more credible analysis is that the Obama administration told the Saudis to open the oil spigot and flood the market, which they are quite capable of doing. Unlike the US, Saudi Arabia can raise its oil output at the drop of a hat, and reduce it just as quickly. Which makes it an ideal tool for manipulating the oil market. So it greatly annoys the administration if the Saudis choose to partner with the BRICS instead of the US

  2. Realist
    June 9, 2023 at 00:53

    What’s the problem? USA? KSA? A couple of over-privileged, hyper-arrogant monarchies with an upper crust of megalomaniacs who think they are entitled to everything under the sun, where no price is too high to pay or demand to get exactly what they want or believe that they need. So, they will fork out huge fortunes to allow the reputed best golfers in the world hit small hard white balls with sticks across the landscape until they fall into a series of holes in the ground, with the objective to win cash prizes! How exceptional is that supposed to be? If you’re like me and just don’t think something so trivial should be considered so important, just don’t watch the broadcasts of this tom-foolery on the idiot box, for which you will be charged beaucoup bucks anyway by the media whores at Comcast, ESPN, et al. Meh, if this absurd overreach by Earth’s elite golfing impresarios fails, perhaps the schedulers of our typical American day can start airing the International Hunger Games or the American League of Genocide Tournament, which should be equally amusing to our modern sensibilities.

  3. Thomas Scherrer
    June 8, 2023 at 21:50

    Funny how money works. From a more nuanced perspective, this deal came about probably because the PGA didn’t want their pending litigation to go into the discovery phase. Sure, the LIV of the Saudis is probably awash in dirty money; I can only imagine how dirty a century of the PGA’s books look like.

  4. Eddie S
    June 8, 2023 at 16:40

    Yeah… but SA has some of the best grade of crude oil (a lot easier to refine into gasoline than the tar-sands muck or fracked crude) and I believe they’re either the top OPEC producer or a close second, so they carry a lot of clout in that organization. I suspect that the POTUS of the U.S. (whoever it’s been or is) doesn’t want to have a major break with SA and a return to the lines at the gas-pumps, which would be political suicide, so they make theatrical complaints to SA but don’t do anything serious about it. And let’s not get too surprised by this— golf has always been an elitist pastime (hard to call anything where you can ride around in carts drinking alcohol & smoking tobacco products a ‘sport’) and heavily populated by Republicans/conservatives (a poll years ago found that 90+% of PGA Tour players voted Republican), with a hugely disparate prize money, so were people expecting philosopher-kings?

  5. Gene Perrodin
    June 8, 2023 at 14:12

    First off I understand people being upset. But. This relationship with Saudi. Should not be put on the athletes. What about our government and all the business that Americans have with. Them. Thatvlike people calling out nba for China. When musk is wine and dine but China government officials. Why aren’t people boycott telsa.

  6. Michael O Malloy
    June 8, 2023 at 13:23

    “Mace, who chairs the Congressional Golf Caucus”, WTF ! District of Corruption has a golf caucus. An integral part of governing, no doubt,

  7. Jeff Harrison
    June 8, 2023 at 12:18

    I find the shock, dismay, anger, etc amusing. It is also proof of an incredible lack of self awareness. A lot of these people/organizations act as if the US is some sort of epitome of human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s look back on the last half century.

    Vietnam. The Vietnam war was started with a lie. The Gulf of Tonkin “incident” wasn’t. It was a lie. As a result of that lie, literally millions of innocent people died from either American ordinance or that weapon of mass destruction known a agent orange in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. To the best of my knowledge, we have done next to nothing to address the mutations that continue to occur in SEA as a result of agent orange nor have we done much to address the unexploded ordinance which continues to kill and maim the people of SEA.

    Grenada/Panama. Well, we didn’t kill a ton of people and we didn’t use weapons of mass destruction so it may not be worth mentioning. I mean what country doesn’t invade their neighbors for no good reason and kill a relative handful of people every now and again?

    It’s not clear to me what the point is in listing what we’ve done to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Pakistan. The millions of people we’ve killed and maimed, left homeless and hungry make a mockery of their outrage. One should remember Christ’s words in the new testament – Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  8. Tim N
    June 8, 2023 at 10:08

    There ain’t a single Congress person that has any business saying anything involving crimes by our lately recalcitrant good friends the Saudis. Not after the Yemen war, and certainly not after Cracker Joe’s fistbump with MBS. The hypocrisy! That especially applies to that fraud Khanna. The US has had unwavering support for the House Of Saud going back decades. What’s a little golfing and schmoozing between old friends? So go on, Ro, and pledge your undying support for the fascists and Nazis running Ukraine. Maybe they like golf, and you can cut a deal with them and shut out the Saudis.

  9. David
    June 8, 2023 at 07:50

    actually it makes sense… the US has an equally horrendous record recently of unjustified invasions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lybia as well as proxy wars.. see Ukraine.

    • Thomas Scherrer
      June 8, 2023 at 21:57

      You know, I brought this up to a Facebook commentor who felt compelled to tell me how immoral the LIV guys were (Mickelson, in particular) for taking the money…

      After explaining the US continued destabilizing of sovereign countries across the world, the guy stammered endlessly. Like, you don’t get it, dude. You’ve been manipulated your whole life; you’re being manipulated, again.

  10. Robert Emmett
    June 8, 2023 at 07:24

    Exhibit A: Money talks & bullshit stalks the land.

  11. Valerie
    June 8, 2023 at 03:35

    Golf in my opinion, should be banned globally. What a waste of precious water.

    • Xpat Paula
      June 9, 2023 at 03:13

      Right. Or keep it where it originated, where lush greens are watered by abundant rainfall. Golf courses in the desert watered by pumping from drying aquifers? Wtf?

  12. Robert
    June 8, 2023 at 02:26

    I would have bet on a merger taking place within 3 years but a deal this quickly was shocking. There was a somewhat similar situation in the 1970’s (?) when a collection of wealthy American businessmen (mostly oil barons) wanted the NFL to expand but the old guard NFL family owners refused so the American Football League was formed.

    Almost all of sports media made fun of the new league with somewhat different rules and brighter uniforms and 2nd tier players. And then Joe Namath came along and everything changed.

    Money talked then and money talked in 2023. Additionally, blood money became clean money overnight.

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