World Wrestling Entertainment’s upcoming event in Saudi Arabia will proceed as scheduled despite an international diplomatic crisis related to the Middle Eastern nation’s purported role in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
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WWE Crown Jewel is scheduled to occur on Nov. 2 in Riyadh. It is the second major event WWE has held in Saudi Arabia as part of a 10-year pact with the Saudi General Sports Authority reportedly worth roughly $45 million per year.
“WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base,” the company said in a press release alongside third-quarter financial results. “Considering the heinous crime committed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Company faced a very difficult decision as it relates to its event scheduled for November 2 in Riyadh. Similar to other U.S.-based companies who plan to continue operations in Saudi Arabia, the Company has decided to uphold its contractual obligations to the General Sports Authority and stage the event.”
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist known for his critical views of the current Saudi regime, disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi officials initially insisted the country had nothing to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance, but later acknowledged he was killed in the embassy during a fistfight that turned deadly.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has denied responsibility for Khashoggi’s death, referring to the incident as a “heinous crime that cannot be justified.”
The WWE has faced widespread criticism for its relationship with Saudi Arabia since the incident. HBO host John Oliver accused the WWE in a lengthy monologue of contributing to “propaganda” designed to legitimize the current Saudi regime on the global stage.
The journalist’s death prompted several major companies and business leaders to distance themselves from Saudi Arabia ahead of the Future Investment Initiative, a high-profile financial conference known as “Davos in the Desert.” Officials from Bank of America and JP Morgan were among those who chose not to attend.