Some of golf's biggest stars take to the greens this weekend of the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey amid harsh criticisms that the players are getting "blood money" linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Families of 9/11 victims were protesting near the club Friday, the first day of tournament play, criticizing the players — as well as former President Trump — pointing out that 15 of the 19 hijackers responsible for 9/11 were Saudi citizens.
The group has been voicing their outrage for weeks over the Saudi Arabian-funded golf tournament being held this weekend at the Bedminster course owned by the former president. The 4-day LIV Tournament features 48 professional golfers competing for a $25 million purse put up by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Trump defended the tournament Thursday using a familiar strategy deployed during his presidency -- making false claims by suggesting there was still uncertainty around the attacks.
“Well, nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately, and they should have," the former president said.
Matthew Bocchi, who was 9 when his dad John died in one of the World Trade Center towers, was part of the group from 9/11 Families United making their voices heard at the start of the week.
”I think it sets a precedent that money will erase wrongdoing, that’s what angers me the most,” Bocchi said.
He added that he understood the tournament will likely play on, in spite of the opposition.
“It won’t stop, but we’re going to make it as painful as possible and unenjoyable as possible for those involved. We think that they need to know our feelings,” said Bochi.
Alison Crowther clutched the red bandana worn that day by her 24-year-old son Welles, a volunteer firefighter who helped save several people.
“What this tournament will do is showcase how easily people can be corrupted by money. Like these professional golfers who are going over to play,” said Crowther.
Last week on his social media site, Trump encouraged players on the PGA Tour to jump to LIV, where there is guaranteed money. He expressed fury last year when the PGA of America yanked its 2022 championship from Bedminster after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection in Washington.
The families protesting LIV don’t single out Trump in their criticism. Terry Strada, who lost her husband, Tom, blames every presidential administration since 9/11 — claiming recently declassified documents proves a direct Saudi connection. The Saudi government has denied any involvement.
”I have a sitting President that released these documents, that needs to take action on that. That’s more of where my focus is,” said Strada, who called President Joe Biden’s fist bump with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman “disgraceful, painful to watch.”
She said that the president needed to take time to discuss the attacks during the meeting, but said Biden “blew it” by not doing so.
The families say that President Biden has so far refused to meet with them. They said they will go back to the club on Friday, making their voices heard as the players tee off.
It’s not clear how much money the Trump organization is receiving for hosting the tournament.