World Wrestling Entertainment’s close ties to Saudi Arabia face scrutiny this week after the Middle Eastern nation’s rumored involvement in the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
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WWE, which has aggressively expanded into new markets to drive global revenue growth, held its first-ever event in Saudi Arabia last April as part of a 10-year pact with the Saudi General Sports Authority said to be worth $45 million annually, according to Wrestling Observer Newsletter. A second event is scheduled to be held on Nov. 2.
HBO host John Oliver slammed the partnership in a monologue Sunday, noting that WWE’s first event in Saudi Arabia amounted to “wall to wall propaganda” meant to boost the country’s international image. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called on WWE to review its relationship with the country in light of a “continuing pattern of abuse of civil rights and civil liberties,” according to WCBS Radio 880.
“We are currently monitoring the situation,” WWE said in a statement to FOX Business. It’s unclear if WWE officials are considering canceling the upcoming event.
Saudi Arabia has denied responsibility for Khashoggi’s Oct. 2 disappearance from the country’s consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials have asserted that Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the government, was likely murdered inside the building.
Several prominent business leaders are distancing themselves from Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi’s disappearance. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Ford Motor Chairman Bill Ford pulled out of the second annual Future Investment Initiative, a financial conference dubbed “Davos in the Desert.” Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and other leading financial institutions have also dropped out.
WWE is set to report third-quarter earnings on Wednesday, Oct. 25.