Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that FIFA’s ban on players wearing LGBTQ armbands during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is “concerning.”
“It’s always concerning from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken said during a press conference.
“And 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 added.
Blinken’s remarks come as FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, threatened to impose sanctions on seven European nations if their players wore rainbow-printed armbands in support of LGBTQ rights during this year’s World Cup tournament.
In a joint statement to sports media outlet ESPN, the England, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Wales, Belgium and Netherlands national teams shared their plans to abandon wearing OneLove anti-discrimination armbands due to fears of FIFA sanctions.
“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play. As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games,” the national teams said in the statement.
This comes as Qatar, the host country of this year’s World Cup, has faced human rights criticisms.
Blinken also said during the news conference that U.S. officials have documented that Qatar has made “real progress” on tackling human rights and labor issues in the country.
“One of the things that I mentioned earlier is our hope and expectation that some of the progress that’s been made continues and expands after the World Cup is over,” Blinken said. “But as I noted, there is still considerable work to be done. That’s exactly why it’s so important that we have these sessions and we have these discussions.”
Source: The Hill