U.S. lawmakers drag FIFA over threats made to players wearing “one love” armbands and for sending “a message to LGBTQ+ people that neither they nor their allies are welcome at the World Cup.” 30 senators and members of Congress released a joint letter Friday strongly criticizing FIFA, just two days before the final.
FIFA’s decision to allow Qatar, with its archaic anti-LGBTQ+ laws, to host the 2022 World Cup has caused a great deal of controversy. When the tournament began, players from different teams wore “One Love” armbands to show their support for LGBTQ+ rights.
Manuel Neuer, Germany’s goalkeeper, announces he will go against new FIFA rules and will wear the "One Love" armband.— Pop Tingz (@ThePopTingz) November 23, 2022
He will have to pay a fine and may receive a yellow card at the start of the game. pic.twitter.com/8SiFJWPGbN
The letter, which was signed by more than two dozen democratic legislators, addresses FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino directly. “It is our understanding that team captains from several European teams competing in the World Cup intended to wear OneLove armbands as a signal of support for LGBTQ+ inclusion and diversity, but were instructed by FIFA that doing so would result in the issuance of in-game sanctions (e.g. yellow cards),” the letter reads. “This is in contrast to the typical monetary fine issued for uniform violations, and ultimately deterred players from adorning their uniforms with the armbands.”
Legislators call out FIFA’s hypocrisy in the letter as the organization previously has pledged to fight discrimination. They also raise questions surrounding reports of Qatari officials harassing attendees wearing pride gear.
“Every person – regardless of who they are or whom they love – has the right to be treated with decency and respect, and to live their life free from fear of discrimination. No one should be denied the opportunity to participate in daily life or their love of a sport because of who they are, and no one should be silenced for standing up for those rights,” the letter read. The legislators also implored FIFA to “meaningfully reaffirm the principle that harassment and discrimination are not tolerated at their sanctioned events, consistent with the association’s own campaign and public statement.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Reps. Mark Pocan (Wis.), Mark Takano (Calif.) and Ritchie Torres (N.Y.). Have been credited with leading this effort. Lawmakers also told FIFA’s president that they expect a “prompt” response from the organization. “To what extent will FIFA consider government’s track record on LGBTQ+ rights when determining where to host future World Cups?” the democratic legislators ask. “Will FIFA commit to consistent future policies with respect to players’ uniforms; fans’ apparel, signs, and symbols; and other forms of expression that allows for individuals to demonstrate support for the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups?”