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LIV Golf Cash Grab Infuriates Fallon Smart Dad Seth Smart

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PORTLAND, Ore.—An upcoming golf tournament backed by Saudi money and set to kick off Thursday at an Oregon golf course has rattled local politicians, golfers and the general public.

But the pain of the nascent show is unique to the family of 15-year-old Fallon Smart.

In August 2016, the high school student was crossing the street at an intersection in a popular area of ​​southeast Portland when, according to police, she was fatally struck by a driver, Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah. The Saudi national, then 21, was traveling in a gold Lexus at almost 60 miles per hour, according to police records. Two weeks before facing trial on charges including manslaughter and reckless driving, Noorah was last seen getting into a black SUV before disappearing from the US and eventually resurfacing in Saudi Arabia, according to the oregonian.

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His amputated ankle monitor was found in a gravel yard, the newspaper reported.

“There is no sense of closure, there is no sense of justice. These kinds of fundamentals that you believe in and have faith in as an American are just thrown 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 give a shit about justice.”

The LIV golf invitational series, funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, offers staggering amounts of money to its top players in a bid to lure them off the PGA Tour. The eight-event series will feature $255 million in prize money, with each event having a total purse of $55 million, according to LIV Golf Investments, making it the richest tournament in golf history.

Still, Smart said he hopes professional golfers will reconsider their involvement. “I would love to see these renowned athletes not only taking the money, but thinking about their country. If you’re a golfer in America, you didn’t become a professional golfer in a bubble.”

Saudi Arabia has come under fire for its attempt to “whitewash sports” of the kingdom’s long history of human rights abuses, in particular the gruesome murder of Saudi-American journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018. In addition to 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 for this story.

Several members of the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, where the tournament is taking place in its first stop in the US, have resigned from the club in protest, according to a report from willamette week. In North Plains, the small city outside of the Portland metro area that is home to Pumpkin Ridge, law enforcement is bracing for potential 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, owner of the golf club, opposing the tournament. They cited Khashoggi’s murder, the kingdom’s public execution record, and the escape from justice of Fallon’s killer. Escalante Golf did not return a request for comment for this story.

“The presence of this event not only threatens the safety of our community, but also puts pressure on” local law enforcement, the letter says. “We oppose this event because it is being sponsored by a repressive government whose human rights abuses are documented. We refuse to support these abuses by knowingly allowing the Saudi-backed organization to play in our backyard.”

US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) also condemned the tournament, pointing to Fallon’s death and Saudi Arabia’s record of helping its citizens avoid facing charges in the US. “It is wrong to remain silent when Saudi Arabia tries to clean blood stained hands. , in the fight for Oregonians to get justice,” he told the Associated Press. “Fallon Smart was killed very close to our home in southeast Portland, and the person charged with the crime, a hit-and-run, was, by all evidence, flown out of the country by the Saudis before he presented evidence.”

Prior to his disappearance, Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah had been released on bail, was wearing a tracking device and did not have a passport. But federal investigators said the oregonian they believed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia took him out on a private plane using 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 trial. Still, an investigation that same year by the oregonian showed 25 cases of Saudi students studying in the US facing felony charges and then disappearing. The newspaper found seven students, in Oregon alone, who fled while facing charges including rape, child sexual abuse and assault.

“All you have to do is have some money and you can get out of jail and live your life normally, while our lives are devastated. They will never be the same,” Smart said of losing Fallon.

Smart described her long-lost daughter as a bright and cheerful girl who loved animals, drew and sang in a queer youth choir. She said she still has to regularly soothe her 11-year-old son’s tears from missing her sister.

“It’s difficult, because it’s very painful, but you don’t want to forget either.”

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