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Celebrities behaving Greedily

We’ve noticed a worrying trend that has erupted on the path where greed meets duplicity. It involves people that we are taught to admire as talented, glamorous, and often charitable. Who are they? Well, movie stars and professional athletes of course. Is it just us or are these two groups of people more poorly behaved than normal? We’re not talking about what they’re up to sexually, but their chosen pathways to greater wealth.

Bruno Mars, DJ Khaled, and Post Malone have all performed in Riyadh, and Canadian Justin Bieber performed at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2021. Meanwhile Argentine football superstar Lionel Messi has reportedly signed a multi-million-dollar deal to become the poster boy for the Saudi Arabian tourism authority. According to the New York Times, his first Instagram post – a photo of him seated at the edge of a boat taking in a sunset – shared with his 400 million followers, reportedly nabbed him $2 million. In total Messi is expected to earn about $25 million, all for the hard work of going on all-expenses paid vacations with his family and sharing photos of their lavish trips. Oh, that and not saying anything that could tarnish Saudi Arabia’s reputation! This is a nation that has faced widespread, legitimate criticism for its human rights violations which include legally sanctioned torture, prohibitions on free speech and the right to protest, a lack of protections against unwarranted detention and arrest, and rampant discrimination against women and girls through laws that enshrine their subordination to males.

That Saudi Arabian officials see sports as one pathway to a more acceptable image on the world stage has been demonstrated through the billions spent in recent years on the purchase of a Premier League soccer team, championship boxing events, Formula 1 auto racing, and most recently, the PGA tour’s unsettling partnership with LIV Golf.

It’s important to recall that famous singers and athletes have historically used their platforms to motivate fans and politicians towards positive social transformation, sometimes at great personal cost. Consider world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the US military during the Vietnam War (1966) or NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee during the national anthem. Recall Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s smash Band Aid hit Do they know it’s Christmas? (1984), Steven Van Zandt’s anti-Apartheid anthem Sun City (1985) by Artists United against Apartheid, Harry Belafonte’s organization of the all-star charity record We are the World (1985), and Bob Marley’s defiant performance at the Smile Jamaica Concert (1976) a mere two days after an attempt on his life.

We think it’s a shame that superstars who are already financially well-off are using their talents and reputations to push addictive gambling apps and to sanitize the reputation of a nation where females, minorities, and anyone who dare resist the official discourse is imperiled. Given these noble examples, we know for a fact that more altruistic choices are possible.