Rafael Nadal Faces Backlash After Signing Lucrative Deal with Saudi Arabia Despite Human Rights Abuses

Mallorca, Spain – Tennis star Rafael Nadal has faced criticism after signing a lucrative deal to become a tennis ambassador for Saudi Arabia. This move comes despite the Middle East country’s well-documented human rights abuses, particularly towards women, LGBT+ people, and political dissidents.

The deal, which was announced on Monday, involves Nadal working with the Saudi Tennis Federation (STF). Nadal, a two-time Wimbledon winner, promoted his new role through an advertisement on his social media accounts.

However, the decision to associate with a country known for its human rights violations has sparked outrage, especially from the widow of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In response to Nadal’s announcement, Khashoggi’s widow Hanan Elatr pleaded with the tennis star, urging him not to forget her husband’s legacy and calling for justice.

Critics have pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been linked to Khashoggi’s brutal murder by a Saudi assassination squad in Istanbul in 2018. Despite this, the Saudi state has been making efforts to expand its influence in the world of tennis.

The Next Gen ATP Finals were moved from Milan to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, last year, and there are plans to host the Billie Jean King Cup and the WTA Finals in the country, despite its treatment of women. This move has been heavily criticized by tennis legends, including John McEnroe, who has voiced his disagreement with the decision.

In addition to facing public backlash, Nadal is also under pressure from human rights charity Amnesty International to speak out against Saudi Arabia’s abuses. The organization’s economic affairs director, Peter Frankental, called Nadal’s new role the latest chapter in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to “sportswash” its image and divert attention from its human rights record.

As Nadal’s decision continues to draw scrutiny, it remains to be seen how the tennis star will respond to the mounting criticism and whether he will use his platform to address the human rights issues associated with his new ambassadorship in Saudi Arabia.