NFL fans react to Deshaun Watson being named Saudi Arabia's brand ambassador: "The jokes write themselves," "Nasty work"

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Deshaun Watson scores a major endorsement - but it has become instantly controversial

Deshaun Watson is not usually someone to attain major sponsorships, but his latest actions have become a major source of controversy.

The Cleveland Browns quarterback recently visited Saudi Arabia for a meeting with Prince Abdullah bin Mossad - who is a very avid NFL fan (in fact, his Twitter handle has "49er"). He wrote on his X.com account:

Many were disgusted, finding it fitting that a man accused of sexual misconduct would try to promote a country notorious for its horrible treatment of women:

There were also allusions to sportswashing, which many critics allege is the reason behind Middle Eastern nations' rising sports investment portfolio:

"How much were you paid to tweet this?" one fan asked.
"240 million from the Browns not enough? Boss out here twerking for Sheiks," another quipped.
"Sellout", came the accusation of yet another.

Could Deshaun Watson's Saudi visit hint at eventual NFL team ownership by sovereign wealth funds?

By itself, Deshaun Watson's visit to Saudi Arabia can already be considered controversial. But it can also lead to massive ramifications in the coming years.

As of this writing, the NFL prohibits sovereign wealth funds, among other entities, from having ownership stakes in teams. Speaking last July during the Allen & Garber Sun Valley Conference, commissioner Roger Goodell said:

“We haven’t made the move as other leagues have to have any kind of public investment. It’s something we’ll contemplate at some point in time, but we really like our basic model now, where we have private ownership.”

But in recent times, these state-owned entites have been able to ingratiate themselves into sporting organizations, as evidenced by soccer clubs like Manchester City and Newcastle United. WWE, for instance, has a very lucrative deal to host events in Saudi Arabia. The UFC, the world's premier mixed martial arts organization, has a similar deal with Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE.

Watson's recent endorsement as Saudi brand ambassador could soon pave the way for a similar thing to happen in the NFL. As team values keep on rising, the number of prospective individual buyers has been dwindling; and team owners have thus been lobbying for quite a while now to allow partial ownership by firms like the aforementioned funds, just as the other North American sports leagues do.

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