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Golf Crisis PR Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia accused of using golf to ‘sports-wash’ its reputation in the US

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By John Glenday, Reporter

July 1, 2022 | 3 min read

A golf tournament’s decision to play its first competition in the US has backfired after protests from survivors and victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, angered by its association with Saudi Arabia, made headlines.

LIV Golf

The LIV Golf International Series has caused controversy with its links to Saudi Arabia

The LIV Golf International Series has been labeled as a PR exercise by critics, who accuse the Middle Eastern kingdom of attempting to ‘sports-wash’ its poor reputation for human rights.

During an emotional press conference at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside Portland, Oregon, Sean Passananti said: “Instead of admitting their support and funding of al Qaeda, they are trying through the honorable game of golf to buy legitimacy.”

Passananti holds the Saudi authorities responsible for the death of his father, one of 2,996 individuals to lose their lives during the attacks. Exhaustive investigations since have found ‘no evidence’ of collusion between government officials and al Qaeda – despite 15 of the 19 attackers being Saudi nationals.

Backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the tournament can offer $250m in prize money. The competition has been successful in drawing golfers such as Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson to its greens over the more famous PGA Tour.

Responding to the controversy, a LIV Golf spokesperson said: “We continue to believe that sports, including golf, are an important way to bring change to the world ... Golf is a force for good that entertains and teaches the values of fair play, competition and excellence through hard work.”

Adding to LIV’s woes, a hard-hitting attack ad has been airing on local TV in tournament locations, threatening to tarnish the brand before it tees off.

Saudi Arabia has been attempting to rebuild its reputation following the brutal slaying of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly at the behest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Golf Crisis PR Saudi Arabia

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