PORTLAND, Oregon — A forthcoming golf tournament backed by Saudi Arabian funds and set to tee off at an Oregon golf course on Thursday has sparked an uproar among local politicians, golfers and the general public.
But the pain of the ensuing spectacle is unique to 15-year-old Fallon Smart’s family.
In August 2016, the high school student was crossing the street at an intersection in a popular southeast Portland area when she was fatally hit by a driver, Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, according to police. The Saudi national, then 21, was traveling in a gold Lexus at nearly 60 miles per hour, according to police records. Two weeks before the manslaughter and reckless driving trial, Noorah was last seen getting into a black SUV before disappearing from the US and eventually reappearing in Saudi Arabia The Oregonian.
His severed ankle monitor was found in a gravel lot, the newspaper reported.
“There is no sense of insularity, no sense of justice. Those kinds of foundations that you, as an American, believe in and believe in just go out the window,” Fallon’s father, Seth Smart, told The Daily Beast this week. “It’s definitely quite depressing to see and hear that people don’t have much will to give a damn about justice.”
Funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the LIV Golf Invitation Series offers its top players amazing amounts of money to lure them off the PGA Tour. The eight-event series will feature $255 million in prize money, with each event carrying $55 million in total prize money, according to LIV Golf Investments, making it the richest tournament in golf history.
Still, Smart said he hopes pro golfers will reconsider their participation. “I would love it if these well-known athletes not only take the money but also think about their country. If you’re a golfer in the United States, you didn’t become a professional golfer in a bubble.”
Saudi Arabia has been criticized for its attempt to “sportwash” the kingdom’s long-standing human rights abuses, most notably the gruesome October 2018 killing of Saudi-American journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Besides golf, the kingdom has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in eSports, motorsports and soccer. LIV Golf Investments did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Several members of Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, where the tournament will be held at its first stop in the United States, have left the club in protest, according to a report by Willamette week. In North Plains, the tiny town on the outskirts of the Portland metro area that is home to Pumpkin Ridge, law enforcement is bracing for possible protests, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
North Plains Mayor Teri Lenahan, along with 11 other mayors from surrounding areas, wrote a letter to Escalante Golf, which owns the golf club, disapproving of the tournament. They cited Khashoggi’s assassination, the kingdom’s public execution list and Fallon’s killer, who escaped justice. Escalante Golf has not returned a request for comment on this story.
“The existence of this event not only threatens the safety of our community, it also puts pressure on local law enforcement,” the letter said. “We oppose this event because it is sponsored by a repressive government with documented human rights abuses. We refuse to support these abuses by allowing the Saudi-backed organization to play in our backyard.”
US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has similarly condemned the tournament, citing Fallon’s death and Saudi Arabia’s achievements in helping its citizens avoid indictments in the US. “It’s wrong to remain silent when Saudi Arabia is trying to clean bloodstained hands in the fight for Oregon citizens to get justice,” he told the Associated Press. “Fallon Smart was killed very close to our home in southeast Portland and the person accused of the crime, a hit-and-run death, was, by all evidence, taken out of the country by the Saudis before he stood trial.”
Before his disappearance, Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah was released on bail, wore a tracking device and had no passport. But federal investigators said The Oregonian They believed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had put him on a private plane with a new passport, probably under a different name.
Saudi embassy officials did not respond to requests for comment, but in a 2019 statement to local media, the government denied actively helping its citizens escape the process. An investigation was conducted in the same year The Oregonian showed 25 cases of Saudi students studying in the US being charged with criminal offenses and then disappearing. The newspaper found seven students in Oregon alone fleeing charges including rape, child abuse and assault.
“All you have to do is some money and you can get out of jail and live your life normally while our lives are shattered. They will never be the same,” Smart said of the loss of Fallon.
Smart described his lost daughter as a bright, happy girl who loved animals, drew and sang in a queer youth choir. He said he still has to regularly soothe his 11-year-old son’s tears because he misses his sister.
“It’s hard because it hurts so much, but you don’t want to forget it either.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/liv-golf-cash-grab-enrages-fallon-smart-dad-seth-smart?source=articles&via=rss LIV Golf Cash Grab infuriates Fallon Smart Dad Seth Smart