BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The PGA Tour and its Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf announced an agreement to merge Tuesday, which would put an end to a longstanding feud and pending litigation between the two competing golf leagues.
The agreement would combine the PGA Tour and LIV Golf's commercial businesses and rights into a new company, which would also include DP World Tour, otherwise known as the European PGA Tour.
LIV Golf, backed by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, has been met with sharp criticism since its inception in 2021. As the PIF is an entity controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the league has been accused of sportswashing the Saudi government's image in the face of human rights abuses, such as the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
9/11 Families, a group representing families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, said in a statement Tuesday that it was "shocked and deeply offended" by the announced merger. The group has been a longtime opponent of LIV Golf and has repeatedly cited Saudi Arabia's role in 9/11. 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11, along with mastermind Osama bin Laden, came from Saudi Arabia. In 2021, the Biden Administration declassified a 16-page FBI report tying 9/11 hijackers to Saudi nationals living in the United States.
In their statement, 9/11 Families United Chair Terry Strada, whose husband Tom died in the World Trade Center's North Tower, directed much of the group's anger towards PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan.
"PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan co-opted the 9/11 community last year in the PGA’s unequivocal agreement that the Saudi LIV project was nothing more than sportswashing of Saudi Arabia’s reputation," said Strada. "But now the PGA and Monahan appear to have become just more paid Saudi shills, taking billions of dollars to cleanse the Saudi reputation so that Americans and the world will forget how the Kingdom spent their billions of dollars before 9/11 to fund terrorism, spread their vitriolic hatred of Americans, and finance al Qaeda and the murder of our loved ones. Make no mistake – we will never forget. Mr. Monahan talked last summer about knowing people who lost loved ones on 9/11, then wondered aloud on national television whether LIV Golfers ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour. They do now – as does he. PGA Tour leaders should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and greed. Our entire 9/11 community has been betrayed by Commissioner Monahan and the PGA as it appears their concern for our loved ones was merely window-dressing in their quest for money – it was never to honor the great game of golf."
WBZ's Mike Macklin hit the links at William J. Devine Golf Course at Franklin Park in Dorchester to get local golfers' reactions towards the merger.
"It’s probably good for the game of golf," one golfer said. "You know, some of the sanctimonious people on the PGA that were talking trash every day, I think there was a lot of hypocrisy going on in the PGA camp. So I would love to see if any of those people change their tune."
"It does all come down to money, and I’ve told my boss that if there was a LIV in my profession, I’d be out of here," said another golfer.
"I don’t like it," one man countered. "I don’t like LIV Golf, they shouldn’t have made the deal."
"It’s blood money," agreed another. "What do you say to your gay friends? What do you say to people that get their heads chopped off, you know? They’re killing people. It’s not right."
WBZ's Mike Macklin reports.