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Monday, May 20, 2024

Saudi Arabia’s Latest Sports Ambassador Is Deshaun Watson

  • The QB was in the country to promote American football and meet with Saudi royalty.
  • The NFL currently doesn't permit investment from sovereign wealth funds, but likely will soon.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Saudi Arabia’s plan to buy up every inch of global sports shows no signs of stopping. Having become a major player in golf and soccer and a significant force in tennis and dozens of other sports, the nation’s interest in the NFL is clear.

The U.S.’s biggest sports league currently bans sovereign wealth funds (and institutional money of all kinds) from owning teams, but it’s probably only a matter of time before Roger Goodell and the owners change their rules to let more money in the door.

Abdullah Bin Mosaad—a Saudi prince who loves the NFL so much that he has “49er” in his X handle and was once described by an ESPN writer as “one of the most rabid fantasy football players I’ve come across”—recently welcomed Deshaun Watson on an apparent goodwill trip to his country. Watson posted a picture of himself and the prince holding Browns and 49ers helmets on Instagram.

“I had a nice time visiting Saudi Arabia and learned a lot about the original Saudi culture and society,” Watson wrote Tuesday evening, adding that he went to several Saudi soccer games. He tagged the prince in his post and added, “God willing, we will see [football emoji] in Saudi Arabia soon.” In a video, Watson talked about what it would take to get a major football game to the country and region.

Watson, the disgraced Browns quarterback, was suspended for 11 games in 2022 over extensive allegations that he sexually assaulted and harassed massage therapists. Watson settled 23 suits from women who claimed he sexually assaulted them between ’20 and ’21, paying out millions of dollars in settlements and league fines. At least one suit remains in the court system, where Watson may have to testify again this year.

He’s perhaps an apt partner for the Saudi regime, whose own pioneering American golf partner, Phil Mickelson, trashed the country in a 2022 interview. “They’re scary motherf***ers to get involved with,” Mickelson—again, someone who took $200 million from LIV—said. “We know they killed [Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay.”

Bin Mosaad, the 49ers-mad prince, is also the primary owner of English Premier League team Sheffield United, where he recently announced the firing of the head coach in a live radio interview. He previously ran what is now known as Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport.

“we really enjoyed having you in Saudi,” he replied to Watson. “I wish you and your family health and happiness, I wish you the best of luck in every game you play except when you play against you know who!” 

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