AS I SEE IT May 27: Smoke, mirrors, and sportswashing

Posted on 5/27/124 by Bob Magee

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling Between the Sheets

So this Memorial Day wrestling weekend began with WWE's
semi-annual exercise in sportswashing, as WWE went to
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for a Smackdown taping, as well as the
King and Queen of The Ring PLE.

Things began with one of the most transparent attempts to
make viewers that don't know any better... think everything
is wonderful in Saudi Arabia, as pictures were posted on WWE
social media of Women's Tag Team Champions Jade Cargill and
Bianca Belair, as well as Liv Morgan and Mia Yim frolicking
in the sun at Oia Beach ahead of the weekend's events.

The unspoken part of the story is that privately owned
beaches/hotel tourist resorts are privately owned, so
therefore women can wear such swimwear and avoid punishment.

Think things have changed for Saudi women?

Ask Manahel al-Otaibi, a 29-year-old fitness instructor and
women’s rights activist, sentenced to 11 years in prison
because of her choice of clothing...namely workout clothing
and support for women’s rights.

Amnesty International said the following on the matter:
"Manahel al-Otaibi was sentenced in a secret hearing before
the country’s notorious counter-terrorism court, the
Specialized Criminal Court, on 9 January 2024, but the
decision was only revealed weeks later in the Saudi
government’s formal reply to a request for information in a
Joint Communication by UN Special Rapporteurs about her

Her charges related solely to her choice of clothing and
expression of her views online, including calling on social
media for an end to Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system,
publishing videos of herself wearing “indecent clothes”, and
“going to the shops without wearing an abaya” (a traditional
dress). Her sister Fawzia al-Otaibi faces similar charges,
but fled Saudi Arabia fearing arrest after being summoned
for questioning in 2022.

Yet, according to Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Mission in
Geneva, Manahel al-Otaibi was found guilty of absurd
“terrorist offences” under articles 43 and 44 of the
kingdom’s draconian Counter-Terrorism Law, criminalizing
“any person who creates, launches, or uses a website or a
program on a computer or on an electronic device … or to
publish information on the manufacture of incendiary
devices, explosives, or any other devices used in terrorist
crimes“, as well as “any person who, by any means,
broadcasts or publishes news, statements, false or malicious
rumors, or the like for committing a terrorist crime”. Al-
Otaibi’s family have not had access to her court documents,
or the evidence presented against her.

Sports Politka reporter Karim Zidan interviewed Saudi human
rights activist Lina Al Hathloul, whose sister Loujain was
jailed and tortured for defying a ban on Saudi women
driving. Loujain was released from prison in 2021 but cannot
leave the kingdom due to a travel ban.

After her sister was kidnapped and jailed, Al Hathloul, who
serves as Head of Monitoring and Advocacy at ALQST for Human
Rights, said the following:

“I want people to understand how fear has become
ubiquitous here in Saudi Arabia...The fact that the state
security can really break into your house and take your
daughter or your sister without you being able to know where
they are, this is exactly the definition of a police state
and this is what Saudi Arabia has become under Mohammed bin

Back to sportswashing.

As noted by's Corey Brennan, this is FAR from
being just a WWE problem.

Professional boxing, MMA, Formula 1, tennis (even women’s
tennis, and soccer/football are among the many sports taking
Saudi money and helping the KSA to portray a "progressive"
image to many, while the Saudis continue to execute and jail
people for what they post on social media. Brennan notes the
Saudi government will literally threaten athletes to get
them to comply with their "smile and wave" sports washing,
including when a rocket hits in the foreground of a Formula
1 race track during race week.

But WWE doesn't want to be left behind.

Turki Alalshikh, the Chairman of the General Entertainment
Authority in Saudi Arabia, told ESPN‘s Mike Coppinger that
"an enhancement" to the existing 10-year deal/$50 million
per show deal with WWE will be announced soon. The
"enhancement" has been suggested to be one of the big five
premium live events to the country, most specifically the
Royal Rumble or WrestleMania.

In addition, Alalshikh also said that Riyadh Season will
sponsor the UFC 306 pay-per-view from the state-of-the-art
location of The Sphere in Las Vegas, the first sponsorship
of its kind from Saudi.

Saudi Arabia also hosted the Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk
undisputed Heavyweight title fight in Riyadh a week before
King and Queen of the Ring.

“We will do big things with the UFC and TKO,” Alalshikh
said. The Saudi deal with the UFC was facilitated by former
TKO Executive Chairman Vince McMahon.

So much for it being about facilitating cultural change. In
the end, as everyone with sense understood, it was all about
the blood money.

Until next time...

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