PORTLAND, Ore. — LIV Golf, the controversial Saudi-backed golf league, kicked off its first U.S. event with a glitzy gala at a Portland nonprofit. The LIV Golf Portland Pro Am Pairing Party was held at The Redd in Southeast Portland’s industrial district. The event space is owned by the environmental nonprofit Ecotrust.
A similar draft party, prior to the inaugural event in London was abruptly moved after the host venue reportedly walked away fearing bad publicity.
KGW reached out to Ecotrust for a statement. The nonprofit wrote, “We sincerely apologize for contracting our space to this organization. We will evaluate and change our policies for vetting and booking events. We are a mission-driven organization, and we take our values very seriously.”
Despite fierce backlash from local elected officials, the LIV Golf Invitational Portland begins play Thursday at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains. Eleven mayors from Washington County signed a letter opposing the controversial event.
“This is not a political issue. This is an issue of safety. This is an issue of unwelcomed tournament coming into our own backyard,” said Beaverton mayor Lacey Beaty.
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has been a vocal critic of the LIV Golf event, which is backed by Saudi Arabia, a country long accused of numerous human rights violations. Wyden added the Saudis are also suspected of whisking away it’s citizens charged with crimes in the U.S., including a college student charged with the deadly hit-and-run of 15-year old Fallon Smart in Southeast Portland.
“My hope is that Oregonians don’t help the Saudis write another grisly chapter in the sportswashing playbook by supporting this tournament that helps to normalize these Saudi atrocities,” said Wyden.
KGW has learned organizers of the controversial LIV golf event also signed a $58,000 contract with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to help with traffic and public safety. A spokesperson explained it is not unusual for the sheriff’s office to recover costs from a private event.
“While we understand the LIV Golf Invitational is controversial, we still have an obligation to keep people safe,” the sheriff’s office said in a written statement.
Oregon’s governor suggested the human rights issue should not be overlooked.
“I am hopeful that the sponsors are listening and hearing the concerns that are being raised about this particular event,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in an interview with KGW earlier this month.
During press conferences at Pumpkin Ridge this week, several professional golfers, including Bryson DeChambeau, sidestepped the human rights issue.
“From my perspective, you know, we’re golfers. We’re providing entertainment globally and will continue to do so as time goes on,” said DeChambeau, who is among numerous players enticed to play LIV Golf, reportedly for millions of dollars.