WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert made an appearance at the Bloomberg Invest conference on Wednesday and said that the league would consider hosting a game in Saudi Arabia, but that location would not be her first choice for another international event.
"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."
Engelbert's comments came in regard to thethat the PGA Tour will merge with the Saudi-backed LIV golf. There has also been some surprise movement in the soccer landscape recently, with , including Karim Benzema and N'Golo Kante to staggering contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The WNBA also recently went international with their product when the Minnesota Lynx took on the Chicago Sky in a preseason game in Toronto. That was the first time the league ever hosted a game in Canada, and the third outside of the United States; the other two were a 2011 contest in England and a 2004 matchup in Mexico.
As the WNBA looks towards expansion -- perhaps in Toronto -- and continues to try and increase its fanbase and digital footprint, further international games are likely. It's hard to see one happening in Saudi Arabia any time soon, however, given some the country's laws and human rights records. That is even more true if the players had a say in the decision, as Engelbert suggests they would.
"We would look at it the context of EMEA games," Engelbert said. "It is something that I think we would think through. We're running a very player-led league and I would go to them first and say: 'Where do you want to play?'"
One owner, Larry Gottesdiener of the Atlanta Dream, has already come out against the idea, writing on Twitter: "I read Bloomberg regarding the WNBA playing in Saudi Arabia. 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."