WWE has decided to look beyond the controversy surrounding the death of writer Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul and present its Nov. 2 “Crown Jewel” event in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
The Stamford-based company announced its decision within the guidance of its third-quarter earnings report.
“WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base,” the company stated. “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. Full year 2018 guidance is predicated on the staging of the Riyadh event as scheduled.”
WWE executives were quizzed about their decision during an investors call that accompanied the earnings report, but they quickly shut down any conversation on the matter.
“We’re not going to talk a lot about that,” CEO Vince McMahon said. “It’s a very sensitive subject these days, naturally. I think our statement pretty much said all we want to say about that today.”
“All our thoughts are encapsulated in our statement,” added WWE co-President George Barrios replied.
The death of Khashoggi and the Saudi government’s shifting explanations on what befell the Washington Post contributor created a backlash among U.S. companies dealing with the kingdom. Black Rock, JPMorgan Chase and Uber pulled out of an investment conference held in Riyadh earlier this week, while the media conglomerate Endeavor is reportedly seeking to cancel a $400 million deal with the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
WWE has received criticism for an Instagram posting that promoted the “Crown Jewel” event with a photo of an urn – the longtime symbol of the wrestling icon The Undertaker, but an image that many social media users felt was inappropriate in view of the failure of Saudi officials to produce Khashoggi’s body.