Murdered journalist's widow seeks majors ban for LIV rebels
The widow of slain Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi has made a call for golfers who have competed in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League's inaugural event to be banned from major tournaments.
Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in 2018, with a declassified US intelligence report last year accusing Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman of greenlighting the operation to "capture or kill" the journalist.
With Salman in control of the Saudi Public Investment Fund that took over Premier League football club Newcastle United last year and has bankrolled LIV Golf, Khashoggi's fiancee Hatice Cengiz has spoken out against the breakaway competition that has attracted top players such as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.
A total of 17 players have taken part in LIV Golf's ongoing 54-hole opening event, where $4 million will be awarded to the winner.
As a consequence of their rebellion, the PGA Tour has suspended them which has led to Cengiz suggesting they should be banned from playing in golf's major tournaments "if they still carry on and play as if everything is normal".
"This will show that there are consequences for supporting murderers, and it will show the murderers that they are not escaping justice," she claimed to USA Today.
Cengiz's comments come on the eve of the US Open, where the United States Golf Association has already confirmed that all those who qualified for their tournament will be eligible.
Thus far, the British Open has not said whether those who took part in the LIV's event can also play their competition, and neither have The Masters nor the PGA Championship.
For Cengiz, though, who also spoke out when the Public Investment Fund was on the cusp of taking over Newcastle United, there can be no leeway.
"If the players and organizers say they oppose human rights violations, they should act on that," Cengiz said.
"Otherwise their words are empty – only said to try to make themselves look better and not to change anything in Saudi Arabia.
"They should be insisting on justice for Jamal and the countless persons targeted and abused in the Kingdom. And they should not be participating in sports paid for by the very abusers," she went on.
Elsewhere, a research director at the Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), which Khashoggi founded, claimed that Mickelson and others such as the LIV's CEO Greg Norman are being "used to whitewash the crimes of the Saudi government".
"Agreeing to be part of this is basically agreeing to help (the crown prince) rehabilitate his image in the international stage, in the cultural stage and the sports stage," Abdullah Alaoudh explained.
"And agreeing to be used directly by the Saudi government in their own propaganda to say that they host such events, that they can do whatever they want and get away with murder, literally."
After its debut at the Centurion Club concludes this weekend, the LIV will then hold its second event on Portland's Pumpkin Ridge course from June 30 to July 2.