Forget China: Saudi Arabia Is Sports World’s Biggest Threat | Mike Gunzelman

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Don’t look now but Saudi Arabia is quickly becoming a juggernaut in the sports world.

As Americans clash over various political and social disagreements in sports, one of the most oppressive regimes in the entire world is quickly swooping in and taking advantage during our disarray.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is making moves, and quickly.


  • Creation and implementation of the billion-dollar LIV Golf Invitational Series
  • Signing one of the world’s best soccer players in Cristiano Ronaldo for $200+ million
  • Acquiring 80% ownership of the famed Newcastle soccer club
  • Multi-year partnership with the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) for premiere pay-per-view events generating hundreds of millions in revenue for the Kingdom (Deal extended through 2027)
  • Jake Paul vs Tyson Fury boxing match this past February
  • Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk heavyweight title match last year
  • Formula 1 Racing Saudi Arabian Grand Prix (Debuted in 2021. They also reportedly offered $20 billion for complete F1 ownership but it was denied)
  • Saudi Arabia will host the FIFA 2023 Club World Cup (Expected to also bid for the 2030 World Cup)

If that wasn’t enough, Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund are reportedly offering the world’s other great soccer superstar Lionel Messi a $400 million contract as well. I know soccer isn’t huge here in America (although it is growing) but I can’t stress how massive it would be if the Saudis had both Ronaldo AND Messi in their leagues. Just an absolute power move.

Sure, we all know that the NBA bowing down to China is weak and pathetic, but perhaps we should be paying more attention to Saudi Arabia who has MUCH more of an influence in the sports world, yet no one is talking about it.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo signed with the Al-Nassr Saudi Arabian soccer team. (Getty Images)


It’s no surprise what Saudi Arabia is doing.

They are using their vast fortunes of wealth to essentially divert people from the historic human rights atrocities they have “allegedly” committed throughout the decades, as well as those that have been proven, and 9-11.

By spending hundreds of billions of dollars to build up their sports, music and entertainment industries, the Saudis are betting that people will only pay attention to the bright lights and not the dark and corrupt underworld its built upon.

It’s the “nothing to see here,” defense. In the sports world it’s known as “sports washing,” and it’s working.


In addition to the numerous sports examples I mentioned above, Saudi Arabia is also a MAJOR factor in the international geopolitical realm.

Although we can’t definitively say where all the money American and international companies and franchises are spending is going, we can at least use common sense and logic.

Saudi Arabia currently has the fifth largest military arms budget in the world. Of the top G20 countries, the Saudi’s economy was one of the fastest growing last year and they now have the seventh largest sovereign wealth fund in the world.

Oh, and let’s not forget that they literally have a monopoly on the entire world because they control the oil!

The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has signed a multi-year deal with Saudi Arabia that includes its annual Crown Jewel PPV events. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP) (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)


If that wasn’t enough, according to the Human Rights Measurement Initiative, Saudi Arabia is the 2nd worst country due to state abuse. The annual report said the Kingdom received a 2.4 out of a possible 10 rating due to its poor record of “torture, execution, extrajudicial killing, disappearance, arbitrary arrest and the death penalty.”

And why isn’t the sports world in an uproar over Saudi Arabia’s LGBTQ+ stance?

Homosexuality as well as being transgender is a punishable offense in the Kingdom. According to Amnesty International a man was sentenced to 500 lashes and FIVE YEARS IN PRISON because he was gay earlier last year.

You would think athletes and the sports world would be protesting every single day over the massive money deals being made with the Saudi regime.

Yet we barely hear anything.

LIV Golf TV Ratings Somehow Get Worse In Second Event Of The Season
The Saudi-backed LIV Golf has tournaments worldwide. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


What we are seeing in America today is the rise of the double standard.

On one hand you have teams, franchises, leagues and individual athletes so disgusted about inequalities and prejudices here in America that they will support boycotts, protests and publicly condemn what’s going on. But what do we do when those same athletes or leagues are willfully turning a blind eye to other atrocities that are happening because they have a direct financial interest to the Saudis?

Isn’t it curious when Rory McIlroy initially called out the Saudis, LIV Golf and Phil Mickelson only to then a few months later do a complete 180 and say the Saudi investment may be “a good thing,” because at least they’re willing to spend money?

“I understand people’s reservations with things but at the same time, if these people are serious about investing billions of dollars into golf, I think ultimately that’s a good thing but it has to be done the right way,” McIlroy later told the BBC.

That my friends is what we call a sellout.


As I’ve documented, Saudi Arabia is only going to get bigger, stronger, more powerful and more influential in the sports and entertainment world.

The fact that they’ve already been able to make so many inroads despite their despicable display of human rights violations shows that when it comes to the almighty dollar, companies and athletes will look the other way.

It will be interesting to see how the Saudi’s growing influence directly affects American sports.

With the NFL already having talks to expand into Europe and play more games there, could it only be a matter of time until we have NFL games played in Saudi Arabia?

And if so, don’t be surprised when the NFL caters to the Kingdom like the NBA did with China as the Saudis now become the biggest threat to the entire sports world as they smile all the way to the bank with your money.

Written by Mike Gunzelman

Mike “Gunz” Gunzelman has been involved in the sports and media industry for over a decade. He’s also a risk taker - the first time he ever had sushi was from a Duane Reade in Penn Station in NYC.


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  1. Count me as not being shocked when Rory makes the LIV move… He’s been pondering it for some time and it’s what’s really impacting his game, not all the baloney you hear the media talk about…

  2. Unless the Saudis start meddling in the NFL or college football, maybe even MLB, I don’t think most American sports fans care. You listed a bunch of secondary sports – yes, golf is secondary. And so is soccer, very much so. I’ve been told for years that soccer ‘is growing’ and yet I’ve yet to see any indication of that.

  3. The United States Department of State website lists Saudi Arabia as a major ally of the United States. It specifically points out that the US trades weapons for oil with the Saudi’s. President Trump was working to get the US less dependent on Saudi/foreign oil by drilling here in America, but the current regime decided to end all of that. Therefore, we are still heavily dependent on Saudi oil. So if Americans should complain, then they should be doing so every time they fill up their gas tank. The sports stuff is just secondary to the root of the issue and I refuse to get upset about it. The Olympics were held in Russia and China recently and NBC profited heavily off of it and nobody blinked an eye. The sports and mainstream media signaling out LIV Golf is hypocritical and I refuse to bash that league and will be attending the LIV event this weekend in the DC area.

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