NORTH PLAINS, Ore.(KOIN) — An international backlash to a Saudi-financed golf tournament comes to Oregon this summer as the LIV Golf Tournament is scheduled to be held at privately-owned Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains. It will be LIV Golf’s first tournament on US Soil.
The tournament has been noted for its attracting of PGA golfers later in their career with larger payouts than the legacy tour. It’s also garnered accusations of “sportswashing” or using sports to better the image of its financial backer – Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
“We know a great deal about these outrageous Saudi violations of human rights and efforts to get around justice,” Senator Ron Wyden said, the Democrat representing Oregon in the US Senate.
Wyden refers to the case of Fallon Smart, a 15-year-old who was killed while crossing Hawthorne Boulevard on foot, by a driver going 70 miles per hour.
Law enforcement says the driver was Saudi-national Abdulahraman Sameer Noorah, who was charged with manslaughter. Prosecutors tell 60 minutes, Noorah met a $100,000 bail and was never seen again in the United States. The US Government believes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia helped Noorah escape.
“We should make no mistake about it. What they are trying to do with their blood-stained hands is clean up their ethical offenses. I won’t forget about Fallon Smart,” Wyden said.
Wyden is also outraged about the tournament in light of the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, the US citizen and journalist. US Intelligence has linked Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman as ordering the assassination.
11 mayors from Washington County have sent a letter to Pumpkin Ridge owner Escalante Golf — detailing their opposition to the tournament. They state Fallon Smart and Jamal Khashoggi’s cases as reason to oppose, but also the public execution of 81 people in Saudi Arabia in March. Nationally, families of victims of the September 11 attack have also called out LIV Golf’s tournaments, as most of the hijackers hailed from the Kingdom.
Forest Grove mayor Pete Truax helped gather the mayors and says the tournament is “a slap in the face” with “total disregard for the feelings of the family and people who lost loved ones.”
“Are we going to accept that it’s okay to attend a golf tournament…at the expense of trying to gloss over this is a government that engages in serious violations of human rights and is trying to paint it over?”
Lawmakers are left little recourse besides speaking out against the tournament, as it is being held on a privately-owned club.
Truax and other leaders also express safety concerns over the single-lane road leading to the course as national media and protestors are expected to meet the tournament, taking place June 30-July 2.
High profile golfers, like Phil Mickelson, have been swayed over to LIV Golf’s tournaments. Mickelson, in question received at the US Open this week, has acknowledged the sportswashing criticisms, while also saying the PGA tournament needs competition.
The PGA pays its payouts helped largely by the income of TV deals, but LIV Golf had not garnered a deal for its first event in London, yet millions of dollars were still paid out to golfers who took part.
Truax says the mayors will not be as easily bought as the athletes.
“To sit back and observe a golf tournament backed by despots is antithetical to what Washington County mayors would like to think they stand for,” he said. “Our cities, our reputations and our values are not for sale.”
Detailed questions were sent to LIV Golf and Escalante Golf but were not answered by the time of this posting.