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An organization representing families of 9/11 victims ripped the PGA Tour’s decision Tuesday to merge with Saudi-funded LIV Golf, describing the Tour and its commissioner, Jay Monahan, as hypocrites who have become “paid Saudi shills.”
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, 9/11 Families United said it was “shocked and deeply offended” by the news of the merger, which will see the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour all operating under a single business umbrella, funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The chair of the group, Terry Strada, said she and the other family members who make up 9/11 Families United felt “betrayed” by the PGA Tour and Monahan individually.
“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. They do now – as does he,” said Strada, whose husband, Tom, died at the World Trade Center.
“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.”
A spokesperson for the PGA Tour did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.
Strada and 9/11 Families United have long been among the loudest critics of LIV Golf, which has become a source of controversy and division in the golfing world since its emergence last year.
The 9/11 families group has pointed to LIV as a blatant example of sportswashing – an attempt by the Saudis to use golf to deflect attention from their wide-ranging record of human rights abuses, including the government’s involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Strada has also repeatedly cited Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9/11 attacks, including that Osama Bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the attacks were Saudi citizens.
“The President’s declassification order uncovered new evidence – which was not available to the 9/11 Commission – that officials in the Saudi government provided material and financial support for a U.S.-based network of assistance that the hijackers relied upon in order to carry out the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans on U.S soil,” she wrote to Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley earlier this year, in a letter urging the course to exclude LIV golfers from the Masters.
In her statement Tuesday, Strada said Monahan “co-opted the 9/11 community” by agreeing with its assessment of LIV Golf as a sportswashing attempt.
“Now the PGA and Monahan appear to have become just more paid Saudi shills,” she said, “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.
“Make no mistake – we will never forget.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 9/11 families group slams PGA Tour over LIV Golf merger: ‘Paid Saudi shills’