Armband Politics at the World Cup

December 16, 2022

RFI Executive Vice President Eric Patterson authored an article published today in WORLD Magazine discussing a persistent double standard for athletes and their causes, especially those relating to their religious convictions on human sexuality and marriage. He observes ways this reality has been on display at the 2022 World Cup. Patterson writes:

Just think of recent headlines: Pro-democracy protests in Iran. China’s COVID crackdowns and Uighur concentration camps. The horrific war in Ukraine. Ethnic cleansing in Burma. So, when Western European soccer (football) teams wanted to wear an armband showing solidarity with the oppressed while competing at the World Cup, wouldn’t you imagine it to be blue and yellow (Ukraine) or somehow demonstrate support for those being imprisoned, beaten, and murdered in one of these conflicts? No. Controversially, it was to be a rainbow “One Love” armband.

The “One Love” armband was to be worn by the team captains of England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and Wales as a way to “promote inclusion and display solidarity with people of different genders and sexual identities,” according to a CNN report. Previously these armbands were worn by team captains during UEFA Nations League games.

Sensing a brouhaha, the World Cup governing body, FIFA, did not allow the armbands to be worn by the captains without a penalty. Instead, politicians from England and Germany prominently displayed the armbands from the stands.

World Cup host Qatar, and many of its conservative Muslim-majority neighbors, have different laws and customs than most liberal Western societies when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. But this World Cup political activism is not really about persuading the Qataris and others to consider changing their laws. If it were, these team captains would have written letters, visited Qatar before the World Cup, met with dissidents in neutral venues outside of Qatar, or perhaps even boycotted the event.

Read the full article: “Armband politics at the World Cup.”