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By Dave Scherer on 2018-04-29 10:00:00

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The WWE's new relationship with Saudi Arabia is profoundly troubling on any number of levels---from the most obvious, like the continuing oppression of political dissenters, women, GLBTQ persons (so is Balor Club *really* for everyone?) in the context of the much-heralded "Vision 2030"; to the not so-obvious, like the horrific war the "reforming" prince and the US is conducting in Yemen, and the ruling family's ties to al Qaeda and other terror groups. Has Vince McMahon and Co. finally jumped the shark, in terms of questionable associations and business practices? And is there any awareness or introspection from WWE staff and wrestlers?

First let me say this: I don’t support many of the things that happen in Saudi Arabia.  In fact, I find them appalling.  I am a huge supporter of human rights for all people.  I hate discrimination with every fiber of my being.  With that said, I also understand that WWE is a corporation whose objective is to maximize the value of the company for their shareholders as long as they do that in a lawful manner.  Their relationship with Saudi Arabia is both lawful and extremely profitable.  They are not doing anything wrong from a legal standpoint there.  Plus, they are only doing what the US itself already does.

Saudi Arabia is a trading partner of the United States, as a country. They are a strategic ally of the US.  We even sell them arms (and that started under the previous President).  Our country has set the precedent of doing business in Saudi Arabia so WWE is not doing anything differently than what we are doing as a country.  In the process, they are maximizing value of the company for stockholders, which again is their objective.

So to answer your first question, no Shark has been jumped.

To answer your second question, there is absolutely awareness and introspection in WWE.  HHH addressed that concern in an interview last week and he was right.  Some called it corporate speak but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t also true.  It was.  

I spoke with some talents/behind the scenes folks that were not happy about going there to perform.  Everyone I have talked to feels the same way that you and I do about the oppression that happens in the Saudi Kingdom.  They are against it but also understand part of the job is going wherever the company puts on shows, and that was the case here.  They know they have to go where the company sends them and once they are there, they need to follow the laws and mores of the country, whether they agree with them or not.

And frankly, I think there are a lot of issues at play here than people on the far extreme of this issue aren’t considering.

When we choose to go into another country to do business, we agree to accept their way of doing things, whether they align with ours or not.  We can’t force our way of doing things on them.  For example, go back to taking Saddam out in Iraq.  Our goal was to bring Democracy to the country.  It didn’t work out so well.  Why?  Because the culture of Iraq has been around for thousands of years.  While Americans think that Democracy is the greatest form of society in the world, it’s hubris to think that we can go into a country that has been around far longer than we have and force our way of doing things on them.  If they ask for it and are receptive, that is a different story.  But if they aren’t, you just can’t do that.  If Saudi Arabia does not want to see the women wrestlers wrestle, we can think it’s wrong (and I do) but it’s their country so we have to respect their decision if we are going to do business there.  It’s a rule we know going in.  

Beyond that, the shoe is often on the other foot.  For instance, Great Britain and Australia, two very close allies of the USA, find our gun laws to be, at best, archaic.  Japan does as well.  Almost all British police officers do not carry guns.  They need to call in a special armed officer when the need arrives.  Australia had a mass shooting and drastically changed their laws.  They find the fact that we continue to allow mass shootings to occur to be heinous.  I have heard intelligent people from those countries speak about our gun laws in a manner similar to the way that we speak about the Saudis.  Yet, corporations from all three countries do lots of business with the US.  They vehemently disagree with one of the tenets of our society, some even finding it to be reprehensible, but they still do business here for two reasons, because they respect our way of doing things and of course, money.

That is what WWE has done in Saudi Arabia.

Now, would I applaud WWE if they chose to not run a show in Saudi Arabia based on the things that the government does?  Absolutely, I would.  I appreciate any company that places what they believe to be right over profit.  I also understand the way business works and that kind of altruism doesn’t happen very often.

Also, consider this.  Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss did finally wrestle in front of the crowd in Abu Dhabi last December, the first time women have ever done so for WWE in the UAE.  While I am not naive and know that the Saudi show was about dollars and cents, I can hold out hope that somehow WWE might actually be a part of change happening in Saudi Arabia.  Would I bet my house on it?  No.  But I wouldn’t have bet that Sasha and Alexa would have had that match in Abu Dhabi either.  

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