As the 2023 Masters approaches, the national chair of 9/11 Families United has sent a letter to Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley asking to speak with him about the club’s decision to allow Saudi-backed LIV golfers to play in next week’s tournament.
“Countless Americans have said they will ‘never forget’ what happened on 9/11, but those words without actions are meaningless,” Terry Strada, whose husband, Tom, was killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, wrote to Ridley in the letter that was emailed Monday and obtained by USA TODAY Sports. “You have the power to stand with the 9/11 community and show that you have not forgotten about your fellow Americans.
“The decision is yours. I hope you will consider my request to speak with you ahead of the tournament so that I may educate you about the potential harm caused by normalizing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and giving recognition to its servants – no matter how financially beneficial it may be for your club.”
An email seeking comment from an Augusta National spokesman was not returned as of Thursday night.
Strada said she and other 9/11 family members will be at The Commerce Club in Atlanta next Tuesday morning for a 10 a.m. press conference to discuss Augusta National’s decision, announced last December, that allows LIV golfers such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia to participate in the upcoming Masters.
There is no planned protest at the Masters tournament site in Augusta, Ga., due to local regulations during Masters week, she said.
At the Tuesday press conference, Strada and her fellow survivors will “share our stories and outrage with the decision by Augusta National Golf Club to give an international platform to those golfers who abandoned the PGA (Tour) to become servants of the Kingdom and help LIV Golf with Saudi Arabia’s ‘sportswashing’ of the Kingdom’s horrific human rights record,” she wrote in her letter to Ridley.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has never been held accountable for their role in the 9/11 attacks,” she said. “It is well documented that Osama Bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. However, you may be unaware of new information revealed after the Biden Administration declassified thousands of U.S. intelligence agency documents pertaining to the Kingdom’s role in 9/11 prior to LIV Golf’s inception.
“The President’s declassification order uncovered new evidence – which was not available to the 9/11 Commission – that officials in the Saudi government provided material and financial support for a U.S.-based network of assistance that the hijackers relied upon in order to carry out the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans on U.S soil.”
Saudi money 'tainted with 9/11 blood'
Strada has spent months speaking out against LIV Golf and the golfers who have chosen to participate in the exhibition-style, no-cut golf league that is funded by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to the United Nations and intelligence agencies, bin Salman was the mastermind behind the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is now bankrolling LIV Golf and other high-priced sports ventures in a transparent attempt to distract the world from its record on human rights and their government agents’ role in assisting the hijackers that carried out the 9/11 attacks,” Strada wrote to Ridley. “The league’s own consultants confirmed that a key goal for the league is to improve the Saudi’s standing in the world. Recent court filings also show that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund spent almost $1 billion on LIV last year, turning virtually no profit.
“Any Saudi money is tainted with 9/11 blood,” Strada continued. “In your role as Chairman of Augusta (National) Golf Club, it is deeply disappointing that your organization is giving these Saudi-funded golfers a platform to peddle the next chapter of Saudi sportswashing talking points.”
A 'slap in the face'
For Strada, Augusta National’s decision is “personal” and “a slap in the face,” she said in a recent phone interview.
“Golf is such a huge part of our lives,” she said. “Tom and I met at a golf club — Meadow Brook on Long Island — where I was working as a waitress and he was an assistant golf pro. I was 19 and he was 21. He was a scratch golfer and had dreams of becoming a tour player but after playing in a few amateur tournaments, he ended up working on Wall Street instead.”
Terry Strada said her husband would often take their young son and daughter, Thomas and Kaitlyn, to hit balls at Anchor Golf Land near their home in New Jersey. Tom admired many of the top pros at the time, but his favorite was Mickelson, a lefty like Tom.
“We were huge fans of Phil Mickelson,” she said. “Now he is the biggest disappointment of all.”
Terry gave birth to the couple’s third child, Justin, on Sept. 7, 2001. She was at home with her children and her mother, who had come to help her with the kids, when she watched the World Trade Center’s North Tower fall, knowing her husband was in his office at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor.
“Over 3,000 children were left without a parent that day,” she said. “My children are three of those thousands. They were seven, four and four days old on 9/11. In Tom’s honor, and in honor of all my dear friends who perished that day, I have dedicated the last two decades of my life working to hold those accountable, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for his murder.”
This week, that work now includes her public criticism of Augusta National, “the one place I would have hoped would have stood up and taken a stand,” she said. Instead, there will be a total of 18 LIV golfers in the 89-player field.
As she told Ridley in her letter, a cherished gift for her golf-loving family arrived not long after 9/11:
“Tom, my late husband, loved the game of golf. Our children are growing up enjoying playing and with great respect for the sport. In fact, I have a flag from The Masters hanging on a wall in my home that was given to me by a friend of Tom’s after his death with a plaque stating: In Remembrance of Thomas Strada, A ‘Master’ of the Game.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The Masters: 9/11 families plan event to share 'outrage' over LIV Golf