PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Families of those killed in 9/11 and others in opposition to the first stateside LIV Golf competition held a press conference condemning the contest Thursday morning.
The competition at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains is backed by the Saudi Arabia government and has been surrounded by controversy since it was announced.
Speakers laid blame at the feet of the Saudi Arabian government. Andre Aiken, who said he lost his father Terrance in 9/11, took the podium.
“They say I carry his looks,” Aiken said. “I was 3 years old at the time, so I carry the burden of not remembering him.”
The U.S. government reports that 15 of the 19 hijackers were of Saudi nationality, including Osama Bin Laden who officials say orchestrated the attacks.
“Because of the actions of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there were a lot of pivotal moments that my father couldn’t be there for. I’ll never know the sound of his voice, the feeling of him hugging me,” he added.
Aiken expressed frustration at the Saudi government’s current involvement with the golf tournament, but thanked any golfers who have abstained from competing.
“So for me to see, 20 years later, to see those very same people responsible think that they can come in and think they can just bide their time like nothing happened — it’s very hard for me to see,” Aiken said. “I would also like to thank all the athletes who’ve decided for themselves that their silence can’t be bought and that they’re not just athletes, that they can stand for something bigger.”
Some members of Pumpkin Ridge have since left the club saying they felt like their honor was sold when the club agreed to host the tournament.
LIV Golf released the following statement to KOIN 6 News:
“We have tremendous respect and sympathy for the families of anyone whose loved one was killed on September 11, 2001. Al Qaeda’s attack on the United States was a national tragedy. We continue to believe that sports, including golf, are an important way to bring change to the world. Sports is a productive outlet for millions of young people everywhere and we are proud that golf is increasingly popular throughout the world, including the Middle East. Golf is a force for good that entertains and teaches the values of fair play, competition, and excellence through hard work. We understand and respect that not everyone will agree with us, but we believe deeply that golf is a force for good and we look forward to continuing our efforts to grow the game, in the U.S. and around the world.”
The press conference can be viewed in full in the video player below. The article continues after the video.
Local officials and law enforcement are preparing for expected protests at the tournament, while deputies and LIV’s hired security will be manning the roadways leading to the tournament.
Those living in the area say they’re worried on what the infamy means for their small town. Opposition comes from several Washington County mayors, farmers and even lawmakers from Washington, DC.
Washington County Commissioner Jerry Willey said he’s ready for this to be old news.
“I’m happy this event’s going to finally occur and we can get on with life a little bit,” said Willey. “So, I pretty much stay focused on the things that I think need to happen and what I may have some say or control over and the rest of out of my reach.”
The sheriff’s office said LIV organizers are planning an area for protestors to voice their First Amendment rights.
The families of those killed in 9/11 attacks are among the most vocal in their disdain for the tournament alleging Saudi Arabia played part in those attacks.
The tournament, advertised as high-octane and adrenaline filled, begins with their shotgun start at 1:15 p.m. Thursday.
KOIN 6 News’ Brandon Thompson contributed to this article.