As attention turns to next week’s LIV Series event at Donald Trump’s Bedminster golf course in New Jersey, the former US president has urged players to join the Saudi-backed tour despite criticism from the families of 9/11 victims.
On Sunday, 9/11 Justice, a group that advocates for victims of the 11 September terrorist attacks, sent a letter to Trump urging him to reconsider his support for the LIV tour. 9/11 survivor groups have long alleged the Saudi government was complicit in the attacks, although no definitive link has ever been proven.
“The Saudi nation is largely responsible for the death of our loved ones and for the horrific attack on America. And you know it,” 9/11 Justice said in the letter.
Brett Eagleson, whose father died in the attacks, told CNN that the FBI has recently investigated reports that Saudi officials offered logistical support to the 9/11 hijackers.
“The former President correctly speculated in 2016 that Saudi Arabia knocked down the towers and now the FBI has released the documents to prove him right,” Eagleson told CNN, “yet he is choosing money over America. So much for America First. A sad day.”
However, on Monday Trump urged golfers to join the LIV Series.
“All of those golfers that remain ‘loyal’ to the very disloyal PGA, in all of its different forms, will pay a big price when the inevitable MERGER with LIV comes, and you get nothing but a big ‘thank you’ from PGA officials who are making Millions of Dollars a year,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “If you don’t take the money now, you will get nothing after the merger takes place, and only say how smart the original signees were.”
A civil war has broken out in golf between players loyal to the PGA Tour and the LIV Series, which is offering huge cash incentives and prize funds to those willing to join. The breakaway league has been called a sportswashing exercise for a Saudi regime accused of a host of human rights violations. While high-profile golfers such as Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have been critical of the LIV Series, major champions such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia have signed up for the league.
Trump has his own issues with golf’s traditional powers. Last year, in the wake of the storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters, the PGA of America reversed its decision to play the 2022 PGA Championship at Bedminster. Trump’s course at Turnberry is Scotland is also no longer on the rotation to host the Open.
Eagleson noted that Bedminster is located “in the backyard of where 750 New Jersey residents were murdered [in the 9/11 attacks].”
In response to 9/11 Justice’s letter, the LIV Series said in a statement that “these families have our deepest sympathy. While some may not agree, we believe golf is a force for good around the world.”
• This article was amended on 21 July 2022. An earlier version said that the PGA Tour reversed its decision to host the 2022 PGA Championship at Bedminster. The PGA Championship is, in fact, run by the PGA of America.