A press release from the human rights watchdog quotes Dana Ahmed, its Middle East researcher, saying, “Al-Nassr’s signing of Cristiano Ronaldo fits into a wider pattern of sportswashing in Saudi Arabia.
“Sportswashing” is the phenomenon of burnishing one’s reputation through sport.
“It is highly likely that the Saudi authorities will promote Ronaldo’s presence in the country as a means of distracting from the country’s appalling human rights record,” added Ahmed.
“Cristiano Ronaldo should not allow his fame and celebrity status to become a tool of Saudi’s sportswashing. He should use his time at Al-Nassr to speak out about the myriad human rights issues in the country.”
The release argues that the Saudi state executes people without fair trial and does not allow for freedom of expression or association.
Ronaldo will earn an estimated $200 million a year with Al Nassr, according to Saudi state-owned media.
The statement from Amnesty International came in response to comments made by the Portuguese star at his unveiling for the Riyadh-based team on Monday where he said, “I want to give a different vision of this club and country. This is why I took this opportunity.”
CNN reached out to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and the Saudi Pro League for comment but did not immediately hear back.
Ronaldo’s representatives declined to comment.