Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of murdered washington post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, called out the players participating in LIV Golf during the league’s inaugural event this weekend, saying that those who competed in the Saudi-backed tour should not be allowed to play in the sport’s major tournaments.
“If they still carry on and play as if everything is normal, then they should be banned from playing in the world’s major tournaments,” Cengiz told USA TODAY Sports via email. “This will show that there are consequences for supporting murderers, and it will show the murderers that they are not escaping justice.”
Cengiz was engaged to Khashoggi—a washington post columnist–at the time of his assassination in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. A declassified US intelligence report in 2021 accused Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, of approving an operation “to capture or kill” Khashoggi.
The Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, is bankrolling the LIV Tour and has used lucrative multi-year contracts and massive prize packages to lure away a number of top PGA players. Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson are among the 17 players from the PGA Tour to sign on with LIV.
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The PGA responded to the defections by suspending all 17 players shortly before play at the LIV inaugural event started at Centurion Club in London Thursday. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan defended his decision to punish the participants, saying he wouldn’t allow LIV golfers to “freeride off loyal members” of the PGA.
Although the PGA Tour has taken a firm stance on the standing of those who decided to play with LIV Golf, the major tournaments have yet to all make a decision on the eligibility of those individuals. The United States Golf Association, which manages next week’s US Open, has confirmed that all players who qualified for the tournament will be eligible.
The British Open, Masters and PGA Championship have yet to announce whether or not members of the LIV tour will be able to play in future tournaments.
For Cengiz, the choice is clear.
“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.”