LIV golfers criticised by 9/11 survivors’ group over staging of New Jersey event

The head of a group representing families affected by the 9/11 terror attacks has castigated the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Series for staging the tournament at Bedminster in New Jersey this week. Terry Strada, the national chair of 9/11 Families United, believes the venue is the “worst place on the planet” for event three of the lucrative rebel tour.

On Tuesday morning Strada will front a media conference close to Bedminster, owned by the former US president Donald Trump. There, 9/11 Families United will publicise documents they believe prove Saudi involvement in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Saudi Arabia has always categorically denied being complicit in 9/11. “The players need to see this and the White House needs to pay attention as well,” said Strada, whose husband Tom was among the almost 3,000 people killed in the 2001 atrocity.

New Jersey lost 750 residents in 9/11. Strada said of golfers including Phil Mickelson who have converted to the LIV Series: “They might have all thought about what it would feel like for the families if they came to Bedminster and New Jersey. Of all the courses in the world, this is literally the worst they could hold a tournament in. It was extremely insulting and hurtful to think that, six weeks prior to the latest anniversary, families were not going to feel the pain of a Saudi‑backed league in their back yard.

“The families suffered the most but these towns suffered, too. There were schools with broken-hearted children coming back into classrooms. New York City cannot host a tournament so Bedminster, New Jersey is the worst place on the planet this could be taking place.”

Trump’s involvement as essentially the tournament host adds another layer of controversy. Last week he actively advised golfers to side with LIV against the traditional model of the PGA Tour. “He should know better than anyone, as a former president, the level of depravity the kingdom is capable of,” Strada said. “He turned a blind eye to it when he was president. He is a New Yorker, he claims to have empathy for the families but clearly he does not. If he had a sensitive bone in his body he would understand the level of angst this causes.

“These people don’t understand how devastating September 11 was. My husband was dismembered. We don’t know where all his body parts landed. He has never been identified. There was a psychological cruelness that people do not realise. These players have flippantly forgotten how awful the attacks were but former president Trump is especially egregious in his behaviour towards us. There are no words for it.”

Strada branded Graeme McDowell’s public statement of a “smear campaign” against LIV as “comical”.

On behalf of a body which represents more than 10,000 family members of victims and survivors of 9/11, Strada wrote a scathing letter to the representatives of Mickelson and a handful of others after they pledged commitment to LIV. No response has been forthcoming, although Mickelson has expressed his “deepest sympathy” to the families of those who lost loved ones on 9/11.

“That didn’t surprise me,” Strada said on the lack of a direct response to the letter. “It was disappointing. I don’t think they know how to react to the families. They are just spinning off Saudi talking points, right and left. They are becoming more and more insulting as time goes by because they just repeat the same things. Sportswashing is a very serious issue if you look at it through a serious lens.

“I cannot imagine that they are completely heartless but actions speak louder than words and their actions scream that they are heartless. They have done some abhorrent things; the shirt [worn by Pat Perez] with 100 dollar bill design. The dancing and partying on the LIV jet. How did they think 9/11 families would feel about that?”

A routine defence by LIV golfers that the source of money for golf tournaments under the banner of existing tours receives little focus cuts no ice with Strada. “Business is one thing,” she said. “I might not like people doing business with the kingdom but that’s not what this is. It is not a business arrangement. This is intentional sportswashing to cleanse their image, manipulate public opinion and sweep the 9/11 atrocities under the rug. Golfers are willing to do this because of a large sum of money.”

In response to previous outrage from those affected by 9/11 to the staging of an LIV event at Bedminster, organisers said, “These families have our deepest sympathy,” adding: “While some may not agree, we believe golf is a force for good around the world.”