LIV Golf is a Saudi-backed league that has upset Sept. 11 families due to the kingdom's ties to the terror attack.
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- LIV Golf, the start-up golf league formed to rival the PGA, has paid several high-profile golfers millions of dollars to leave the competing tour. The money paid to pluck golfers, like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, comes directly from the Saudi Arabian government.
This weekend, Friday through Sunday, LIV Golf will host an event at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The golf course is located 50 miles from New York City's ground zero, site of the deadliest terror attack in our nation's history.
The organization 9/11 Families United says research proves the Saudi government supported the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Therefore, they are outraged that a golf event backed by Saudi money could be held so close to ground zero.
"Going to Bedminster, New Jersey was absolutely the worst place on the planet," explained Terry Strada, national chair of 9/11 Families United. "And they picked at this time of year to do it, just six weeks from the next anniversary. Pledging to never forget, these players have forgotten, and it's beyond insulting."
Terry Strada's husband Tom, who worked on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower, died on 9/11. Through her work with 9/11 Families United, she personally sent a letter to Houston-area golfer Patrick Reed after he left the PGA Tour for LIV.
"Such a feeling of betrayal from these golfers that they would actually team up with the (Saudi) kingdom," Strada said of the American golfers who chose to align with LIV Golf. "This is not a business transaction. This is partnering with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. That's what sports washing is. They're trying to improve their image. They're using a time-honored sport of golf to do it, and it's wrong."
Reed, the 2018 Masters champion and a nine-time winner as a pro, lives in The Woodlands. The tour has suspended him and all PGA golfers who joined LIV Golf.
"Our hearts go out to all the families who lost a loved one on September 11th, 2001," Team Reed, the golfer's representation, said in a statement sent to ABC13. "We continue to believe that golf is a force for good around the world, everywhere we play. We understand not everyone will agree, but we believe golf is a force for good."
LIV Golf sent a similarly-worded statement to ABC13: "As we have said all along, these families have our deepest sympathy. While some may not agree, we believe golf is a force for good around the world."
Jason Kokrak, reigning champion of the Houston Open, announced he's joined LIV Golf and will play in this weekend's event in Bedminster. A day after the announcement, one of Kokrak's longtime sponsors severed ties with him.
"For the past two years, Cozen O'Connor sponsored professional golfer Jason Kokrak," the law firm, which has an office in Houston, said in a statement sent to ABC13. "In light of Mr. Kokrak's affiliation with the new LIV Tour, we have mutually agreed he will no longer be an ambassador for Cozen O'Connor. We wish him well in his future endeavors."