BROOKLINE, Massachusetts. As Phil Mickelson was cheered on during Thursday’s unsuccessful first round of the US Open, he was called out by a US senator over his decision to join LIV Golf, ensuring the controversy surrounding the new Saudi-backed tour continues with its first tournament hosted on US soil. near Portland, Oregon, in two weeks.
In a phone interview with USA TODAY Sports on Thursday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said Mickelson and other American golfers are “wrong” taking money from a government trying to clean up their sports image from a range of atrocities, including the 9/11 assassination and the 2018 dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and controversy over the 2016 death of an Oregon teenager hit by a Saudi national who then fled the United States for Saudi Arabia.
“I would just say it’s wrong,” Wyden said when asked what he would say to Mickelson about his association with the Saudis. “I went to school on a basketball scholarship. I deeply believe in the role of sport in building goodwill. I would tell Mr. Mickelson that you can do better. You can be much better than this, you will obviously have plenty of opportunities to earn very substantial amounts of money, but you can do it in a way that does not reward those with bloody hands.
Wyden, along with 11 city mayors around the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, oppose the club hosting the LIV tournament.
“One of the reasons I’m so vehemently opposed to it being in Portland, at the start of the tour (the US leg of LIV), is because it’s happening very close to home,” Wyden said. “A young woman, Fallon Smart, was the victim of a fatal hit-and-run, and right before the Saudi national was due to stand trial, our law enforcement officials at home believe this suspect was escorted out of Oregon and the country by Saudi authorities. . They saw a large car drive up, with a cut ankle bracelet, passports and other things, to leave the country.
“I believe Saudi Arabia is trying to clean up their bloodied hands in Oregon with the help of Fallon Smart and Jamal Khashoggi,” he said. “What I was trying to do was say, look, the American government and important institutions in this country should stand up against these outrageous examples of Saudi complicity in evading the US justice system where Oregon is concerned. or as we all remember what happened to Jamal Khashoggi.
NEVER MISS A MOMENT: Subscribe for the latest news directly to your inbox
“And we have to say that when US sports institutions partner with governments like Saudi Arabia, they are effectively allies in this cover-up and selling their integrity for profit.”
In addition to his involvement in the Fallon Smart caseWyden is the author of legislation requiring the publication of an unclassified report that names Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as responsible for ordering the assassination and dismemberment of Khashoggi. LIV Golf, which pays Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and others hundreds of millions of dollars, is funded by a fund run by bin Salman.
“I would argue that this promotion of sports undermines core American values,” Wyden said. “We believe deeply in human rights, we do not look away when governments are involved in these violations of human rights and ethical standards. …Golfers need to be Americans first and take care of fairness, values and recognize that it’s about more than money.
“The ball, so to speak, is on their side. They have a chance to fix this (by refusing to include the Saudis in LIV Golf) and make a very powerful statement that America is at its best when it stands for justice, when it stands for human rights. You asked what I would say if Phil Mickelson was in front of me: “You can do a lot better than that.”
Wyden also urged President Biden to discuss LIV Golf, as well as the deaths of Khashoggi and Smart, in his meetings with bin Salman and other leaders in Saudi Arabia next month.
“I would like the president to raise these issues and in particular raise Saudi Arabian golf efforts with LIV and put them in the context of holding the Saudis accountable for these atrocities,” Wyden said. “I want to tell you as one of the members of the United States Senate, I will not let this go.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: US Open: Senator Outraged by Phil Mickelson’s Role in Saudi Golf LIV