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LIV Golf will host its second tournament at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Ridge, Oregon, but not without receiving some backlash from officials.
The PGA Tour’s rival has received immense backlash because of its ties to the Saudi Arabian government. The league has been able to lure golfers like Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson while taking fire from Rory McIlroy and others.
Oregonians have a specific issue with Saudi Arabia. Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, a Saudi national, was accused of killing 15-year-old Fallon Smart in Portland in 2016.
However, Noorah’s $100,000 bond appeared to be posted by the consulate of Saudi Arabia. His tracking device was removed, and he seemingly vanished. U.S. authorities believe the Saudi government helped arrange for a fake passport and provided a private jet for him to travel to Saudi Arabia.
With LIV Golf coming to the state, Fallon’s death isn’t lost on Oregon officials.
“It’s wrong to be silent when Saudi Arabia tries to cleanse blood-stained hands, in the fight for Oregonians to get justice — Fallon Smart was killed very close to our house in Southeast Portland, and the person charged with the crime, a hit-and-run death, was, based on all the evidence, whisked out of the country by the Saudis before he stood for trial,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told the Associated Press.
Wyden also accused the Saudis of sportswashing.
“It’s just a page out of the autocrats’ playbook covering up injustices by misusing athletics in hopes of normalizing their abuses,” he said.
North Plains Mayor Teri Lenahan was among those who signed a letter expressing concerns about protests. LIV Golf prohibits ticketed patrons from protesting during the event. The town only has about 3,400 people living in it.
“We oppose this event because it is being sponsored by a repressive government whose human rights abuses are documented. We refuse to support these abuses by complicity allowing the Saudi-backed organization to play in our backyard,” the letter from Lenahan and 10 other mayors read.
Forty-eight golfers will compete for $20 million in prize money for individual play and $5 million in team play, with 12 teams. The golfers only play 54 holes and have no cut line.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.