Cameron Norrie has been accused of participating in Saudi “sportswashing” by agreeing to play in the Diriyah Tennis Cup.
Amnesty International has called on the tennis player to speak out about human rights abuses in the Middle Eastern state if he participates in the tournament next month.
Norrie has been announced as one of the competitors in the exhibition event, where other established professionals including Andrey Rublev, Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka and Alexander Zverev will also take part.
The competition has been running since 2019 and, earlier this year, Andy Murray revealed that he had declined an invitation to appear and said that “a lot of top players” had also rejected offers.
Norrie is quoted in the promotional material for the event, saying: “I’m looking forward to playing at the Diriyah Tennis Cup for the very first time in December.
“It will be a memorable tournament at a unique location and a great experience to come to Saudi Arabia.”
Amnesty International UK believe the player is being “used” as part of a wider campaign to create a positive image for Saudi Arabia that takes attention from human rights in the country.
“We were never going to be telling people like Cameron Norrie where they should or shouldn’t play tennis,” Felix Jakens, Amnesty’s head of priority campaigns and individuals at risk said.
“But, by appearing in Diriyah, Cameron should realise he’s effectively being hired to take part in the latest jamboree of Saudi sportswashing.
“With Saudi Arabia currently throwing sizeable bundles of money at everything from golf and grand prix to boxing and football, it’s really important that top sporting figures use their high profiles to speak out about Saudi human rights abuses.
“Earlier this year, 81 people were executed in a single day in Saudi Arabia, we’ve recently seen Twitter users like the Leeds student Salma al-Shehab given huge jail sentences, and there’s been no accountability for the shocking murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
“We’d like to see any player who agrees to compete in Diriyah refusing to be passively used for sportswashing by speaking out on human right issues – not least by calling for the release of people like Salma al-Shehab.”
The charity believes high-profile figures such as Norrie have to use their position to highlight problems in the country.
“What Saudi Arabia appears to look for with these competitions is a smiling high-profile sports star who will studiously avoid talking about human rights,” Jakens said.
“Cameron has a big platform and genuine influence, and he should use this to speak out and show solidarity with people like Salma al-Shehab who are being cruelly persecuted in Saudi Arabia.”