PROTESTS & BACKLASH ON & OFF THE PITCH
At first whistle, without pulling out of the tournament, football teams are using their position as a platform to stand up for basic human rights. A number of teams gathered together with a pledge to wear LGBTQIA+ armbands on the playing field. FIFA threatened teams with disciplinary action, with seven European nations deciding to no longer wear them, promising allyship in other ways. German players stayed committed, defying the threats by wearing their armbands and covering their mouths, as if gagged by FIFA. On their decision, the team had a united message that “it wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable.” During the Iran Vs. England game, the Iranian team and fans used the moment to remind the world of the current violent regime against women in Iran, refusing to sing and booing the national anthem. The risk of this action is bigger than a yellow card - conservative politicians responded negatively to their actions, calling it a huge insult. Meanwhile, Black World Cup stars continue to be attacked online with racist slurs by Twitter Trolls (no surprise the platform was slow to act, busy with other drama).
Elsewhere off the pitch, other high profile names have been a part of the discourse, both good and bad. Artists like Shakira, Rod Steward and Dua Lipa all made statements that they would not perform at the World Cup. Pop icon Dua Lipa, who is known for being an LGBTQIA+ ally, said in her statement that she would visit Qatar once it has fulfilled all basic human rights pledges.
Other public statements (or lack of them) were deemed harmful - World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman was criticised for his harmful statements on the LGBTQIA+ community - while David Beckham has stayed silent in his role as a FIFA World Cup ambassador, with a reported £10 million deal. Scrolling on Beckham’s Instagram posts, plenty of upset fans have been expressing their disappointment. Comedian and activist Joe Lycett broke the internet with a message to him. Lycett’s “platform for progress”, Benders Like Beckham, launched with a demand targeted at Beckham to end his relationship with Qatar, otherwise he would throw £10,000 into a shredder. Unsurprisingly, Beckham stayed quiet and Lycett followed through, breaking the internet even more, ending with a twist that was both an entertaining and inspiring action.
“I never expected to hear from you - it was an empty threat, designed to get people talking. In many ways it was like your deal with Qatar, David: total bullsh*t from the start. I’m not even queer. Only joking!” Joe Lycett to David Beckham on Twitter