PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said Saudi Arabia is using money and the game of golf to wipe their slate clean and improve its global image.
The new Saudi-backed golf league, LIV Golf, teed off for the first time on Thursday and will make its first North American stop just outside Portland later this month.
The league is financially backed by the Saudi Arabian government, which the US and the UN say has a horrific record of human rights abuses.
“This is basically ‘sportswashing,'” Wyden said. “It’s right out of these autocrats’ playbooks. What they’re doing is working as hard as they can to cover up their injustices by misusing athletics in hopes of normalizing these horrifying abuses.”
Most prominent among those abuses, say the US and UN, is Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s responsibility for the death of US journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Wyden also cited the case of a Saudi student studying in Portland who was charged with manslaughter in the death of Fallon Smart in 2016. The student fled Oregon and the US, somehow getting back to Saudi Arabia despite the fact his passport had been confiscated.
LIV Golf comes to Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains on June 30. The PGA has already suspended 17 players — including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson — for playing on the LIV circuit.