When the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series tees it up next week at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster (N.J.), it will do so amid outrage coming from just a few miles down the street.
Terry Strada, the national chair of 911familiesunited.org, a prominent coalition of families and survivors of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will hold a press conference on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at the nearby Clarence Dillon Library in protest of the event, she told The Post exclusively. The tournament will take place less than 50 miles from the World Trade Center, where her husband, Tom, a bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, was killed when a plane struck the North Tower in the 2001 attack.
“We want to bring to the attention of the public that LIV is nothing more than a public relations stunt for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in an effort to try to erase the gruesome history that his country has with the 9/11 community,” she told The Post. “It’s sportswashing. He’s trying to evade the responsibility he has to each 9/11 family member and survivor.”
Backed by the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund that is chaired by MBS, LIV Golf has been heavily criticized for being used by the kingdom to distract from the country’s human rights record, which rates as one of the worst in the world, according to Amnesty International.
The circuit, which has held two of its eight tournaments planned for this year, has also torn the professional golf landscape in two.
Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter are among just some of the game’s most prominent players to have jumped from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf. As a result, they have been suspended indefinitely from the tour. More players are also expected to join the rival faction, possibly as soon as this week.
“Most days, there’s a pit in my stomach when I think about [LIV Golf] and [Donald] Trump hosting one of these tournaments right in my backyard,” said Strada, who used to live in Basking Ridge. “There’s a lot of pain, anger and disappointment.
“After 9/11, there was this great unity in our country and in Bedminster and the surrounding towns. All that unity, we felt. All the accountability we deserve is being threatened by misguided golfers as they partner with LIV Golf.”
Meanwhile, Trump, who is expected to be on hand for the tournament, stoked the divide on his social media app, Truth Social, on Monday, by telling players they should take the guaranteed money that LIV Golf is offering and to join the Greg Norman-led outfit.
“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. “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.”
Strada, whose late husband was a golf professional at Meadow Brook Country Club before starting his career in finance, had a different response last month when she wrote a scathing letter to the representatives of Mickelson and others and accused the American players of sportswashing and betraying the United States by their association with LIV.
When Mickelson was asked at the U.S. Open about the letter, he said, in part, that he had the “deepest of sympathy and empathy” for the Stradas and other 9/11 families. Strada chaffed at the remarks, saying they were “disappointing, hollow and insulting,” and said that she was taken aback by the testiness with which Mickelson answered a barrage of questions from reporters.
Strada, who has also been critical of President Joe Biden’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia, said she’s still a fan of golf but no longer one of Mickelson and the others who have jumped to LIV.
“I’m not going to stop loving the game of golf,” she said. “But once you pay everyone up front, where’s the incentive to practice? From the format [54 holes, no cut], it’s obvious that it isn’t going to be a legitimate competition. A legitimate league competing with the PGA Tour would benefit the PGA Tour. Honest competition elevates people’s platform. But LIV Golf is none of those things.”
To her and the other 9/11 survivors, the players’ involvement with LIV also cuts much deeper.
“They’re going out there buying shirts with $100 bills on them, singing, ‘We Are The Champions’ on a luxury jet from LIV, saying the allegations [against Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the attack] is tenuous,” Strada said. “They continually insult us.
“Someone asked me the other day if it’s like pouring salt in the wound. I said, ‘No, it’s like pouring razor blades in the wound.’ ”
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