9/11 families slam Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament in New Jersey

Jamie Squire/LIV Golf via Getty Images, FILE

(NEW YORK) -- Terry Strada, the chair of the organization 9/11 Families United, which advocates for families of victims and survivors of the 2001 attacks, was shocked when she heard that the LIV Golf Tournament would be playing at the Bedminster Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

“I couldn't believe that it was actually going to be playing right there practically in my backyard,” she told ABC News’ podcast “Start Here.”

Strada used to live in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, a few miles from the course where the international golf tournament will play over the weekend. Her husband, Tom Strada, was working in one of the World Trade Center towers and died during the attack.

Strada said that 17 families in Basking Ridge lost a family member during the 9/11 attacks and told ABC News the fact that the LIV Golf Tournament, which is sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government, is playing nearby hits too close to home.

“We're very disappointed in the players,” she said. “We've tried to point out to them, I wrote them a letter when this all began.”

For Strada, the connection between the Saudi Arabian government and the attacks on 9/11 is indisputable. “It is no longer alleged,” Strada said. “We are in the courtrooms with a lawsuit against the kingdom.”

“The kingdom actually provided the support network that was needed for the first arriving hijackers and most likely all of them to set up what they needed to plan, practice and carry out the attacks,” she told "Start Here," citing President Joe Biden's executive order in 2021 that led to documents being declassified.

"We know that 15 of the 19 of them [9/11 hijackers] were Saudi nationals, but now we know there was this anti-American pro-jihadist program that was set up in the Saudi Embassy, and it was running out of the consulate out in California, and it was filled with extremists," Strada said.

The LIV Golf Tournament has raised eyebrows since it launched in London last month, with critics calling it the latest example of “sportswashing,” the process by which a group will launder its reputation with professional sporting events.

The golf tournament has managed to secure some of the biggest players in the game, and will travel across three countries in the following months.

The tournament first came under scrutiny because of the allegations of human rights violations against the kingdom, including the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Critics claimed that the kingdom is spending billions of dollars in order to improve its public image, and called on high-profile players such as Phil Mickelson to refuse to play.

The Bedminster golf course that is the site of the LIV Golf tournament is owned by former President Donald Trump, who "has been on record saying that he thinks this was a great move by the Saudis, that they've gotten great publicity," "Start Here" host Brad Mielke said in his conversation with Strada.

“They haven't done anything to make amends for the worst terrorist attack that ever happened on American soil,” Strada told ABC News.

“They put a lot of money into our economy for all the same reasons, they just try to buy respect. And you can't buy respect. You have to earn it.”

Strada registered her "huge disappointment" with Biden, saying 9/11 families tried unsuccessfully to secure a meeting with the president prior to his recent visit to Saudi Arabia. Strada said it was important for the families whose loved ones died on Sept. 11, 2001, to "get the justice that we deserve."

"The kingdom has not been held accountable for the pipeline of money that they used to funnel terrorism. The kingdom needs to be held responsible and accountable for that," she said.

 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022 at 9:31PM by Michela Moscufo, ABC News Permalink