U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday condemned FIFA’s ban on armbands showing support for the LGBTQ community during World Cup matches.
The nation’s top diplomat told reporters it’s “always concerning” to see restrictions on freedom of expression.
“It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken said during a news conference at Doha’s Diplomatic Club alongside Qatari officials.
“In my judgment, at least no one on a football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.”
Blinken was referring to FIFA’s decision to penalize players with yellow cards if they wear a rainbow band in support of the LGBTQ community.
On Monday, seven European teams whose players were planning on wearing the OneLove armbands said in a joint statement that their captains would no longer do so.
Representatives of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland said that even though they were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply for that kind of breach, they couldn’t put their players “in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.”
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The World Cup in Qatar, the world’s largest sports tournament, has been mired in controversy over the conservative host nation’s alleged history of human rights abuse, as well as its treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community.
Consensual same-sex relations are illegal in the small Arab nation. Earlier this month, Qatar World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman said homosexuality is “damage in the mind” and forbidden by Islamic law.
“They have to accept our rules here,” he said, referring to any LGBTQ soccer fans traveling to Qatar for the tournament.
On Monday, CBS Sports reporter Grant Wahl said he was detained by security staff for 25 minutes after showing up to the U.S. 1-1 draw against Wales wearing a rainbow shirt.
“You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed,” Wahl was allegedly told by security personnel. Shortly after tweeting about the ordeal, a guard “forcibly ripped my phone from my hands,” Wahl wrote in a Substack post about his “unexpected detention.”
Team U.S.A. last week unveiled a rainbow-colored logo that’s being displayed at its training facilities to show Qatar — and the rest of the world — that the team “believes in inclusivity,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said at a news conference.
With News Wire Services