Cathay Engelbert would consider playing a WNBA game in Saudi Arabia, she said at the Bloomberg Invest conference Wednesday.
While the country wouldn’t be her first choice for an international event following the success of the WNBA’s preseason Toronto game, she kept the league’s options open.
“I think we would evaluate it across what our global games platform looks like,” Engelbert said. “It wouldn’t be the first place I went, for sure, but we had this opportunity in Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa.”
Her comments came after the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf announced their surprising merger earlier this week. Saudi Arabia also has made waves in the soccer world, as the Saudi Pro League has signed a number of stars, including Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante. Lionel Messi reportedly turned down a sizable offer from the Saudi league to join MLS’ Inter Miami.
The WNBA has played outside of the United States just three times, most recently in Toronto and also in England in 2011 and Mexico in 2004. Engelbert noted that if the players had a say in the decision, playing a game in Saudi Arabia likely wouldn’t happen anytime soon.
“It is something that I think we would think through,” Engelbert said. “We’re running a very player-led league and I would go to them first and say: ‘Where do you want to play?'”
Already, Atlanta Dream owner Larry Gottesdiener has spoken out against Engelbert’s comments.
“I read Bloomberg regarding the WNBA playing in Saudi Arabia,” Gottesdiener said on Twitter. “It is not clear if this was an NBA trial balloon (they govern the W) or an answer to a question. Either way, it is repugnant to a league that ‘prides’ itself on empowering women and supporting the LGBTQ community.”