Over the past year, Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have drawn criticism for their apparent attempt at “sportswashing” their public image by investing in sports like LIV Golf and soccer. But it doesn’t sound like bin Salman is too concerned about that criticism.
During a recent interview with Fox News, Mohammed bin Salman was asked about the “sportswashing” claims, and he had a pretty bold response, making it clear that he didn’t care and that the country will “continue doing sport washing.”
“If sports washing going to increase my GDP by way of one percent, then I will continue doing sport washing,” bin Salman told Fox News during the interview. “I don’t care. One percent growth of GDP from sport and I’m aiming for another one-and-a-half percent – call it whatever you want, we’re going to get that one-and-a-half percent.”
It’s a pretty insane announcement that made it abundantly clear that Saudi Arabia has no intention of slowing down their involvement and investment in sports anytime in the near future, and that led to all sorts of reactions on social media as a result.
This is why the "sportswashing" theory is flawed.
Saudi Arabia doesn't care what the West thinks of it morally.
The Saudi move into sport is about annexation, diversification and future-proofing. https://t.co/6RLEK3PvWy
— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) September 21, 2023
Saudi GDP in 2022 was $1.1tn. When will sports spending boost GDP by $11bn? By accepting without proof that pouring money into a relatively small (but high profile) industry is a policy of economic diversification, instead of PR, journalists are party to the sportswashing.
— Martin Calladine (@uglygame) September 21, 2023
If this is sportwashing, then what do we call what the US has done?
The US remains a “dream” for everyone despite all the things it has inflicted upon other countries.
It has used entertainment, sports, music and cinema to make itself look better 🤷♂️ https://t.co/SYoFHYArt6
— Fayad (@mofayadd) September 21, 2023
In other words, keep going until they accept sportswashing https://t.co/xyR6atwiyJ
— Sponge (@monkeysponge) September 21, 2023
But I've been assured by certain journos in London it's all a master plan to change what your average Brit in the pub thinks about the country 😬 https://t.co/0Ye9RVCUQn
— Wael Jabir (@waeljabir) September 21, 2023
Of course not… and the sports leaders are extending a warm welcome to the State of Saudi Arabia in the world of sports, seemingly unconcerned about the governance issues and conflicts of interest in play. https://t.co/O1BPMN9YeK
— Stanis Elsborg (@StanisElsborg) September 21, 2023
Just a reminder that this guy was approved by the Premier League as a defacto owner whilst they happily removed others over moral issues. https://t.co/pLgiTlGkln
— Martin O'Neill (@RealMJONeill) September 21, 2023
It’s clear that Saudi Arabia will not be pausing its investment in sports anytime soon.