9/11 Families: 2023 Masters Will Be a 'Slap in the Face'

Tournament to welcome golfers from Saudi-backed LIV league
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2022 10:40 AM CST
9/11 Families: 2023 Masters Will Be a 'Slap in the Face'
Phil Mickelson lines up a shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, New Jersey on July 29.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Families of victims and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks are planning to protest at the Masters this spring in response to Augusta National Golf Club's decision to allow golfers from the Saudi-backed LIV league to participate. Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley announced Tuesday that qualified golfers from both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf—including past champions Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Patrick Reed, and recent major winners Cam Smith and Bryson DeChambeau—would receive invitations to the April tournament. That didn't sit well with 9/11 Families United, which previously blasted LIV players for their "betrayal" of country and support for "the evils of the Saudi regime."

The league is funded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose kingdom is tied to the 9/11 attacks and who's personally implicated in the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. "To give recognition at the Masters to Mickelson and other players who are actively helping the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to sportswash their reputation is playing to exactly what the kingdom wants, which is legitimacy on the world stage," Terry Strada, national chair of 9/11 Families United, tells USA Today, calling the move "disgraceful" and "horrifying." "I certainly thought that Augusta would have more class and care more about the 9/11 community than this," she says. "This is a slap in the face."

Strada—whose husband Tom, an avid golfer, was killed in the World Trade Center—notes group members plan to protest at the tournament, just as they did at an LIV event at Donald Trump's golf course in New Jersey in July. "That will allow our voices to be heard on the world stage," she says. An Augusta rep didn't respond to requests for comment. In his statement, Ridley said "we are disappointed" that "recent actions have divided men's professional golf," but that "our focus is to honor the tradition of bringing together a preeminent field of golfers this coming April." He added that "any modifications or changes to invitation criteria for future Tournaments will be announced in April," per Golf.com. (More golf stories.)

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