Soccer teams that planned to protest Qatar’s discriminatory laws against same-sex relationships by wearing “OneLove” armbands have called off the campaign after the sport’s governing body FIFA threatened participating players with yellow cards.
The captains of seven European teams who initially planned to wear themed armbands for the “OneLove” campaign in games have called off the protest after FIFA threatened them with penalties that could see players stricken from matches.
FIFA’s decision to threaten participating players with yellow cards came three days after alcohol sales were banned at stadiums due to pressure from the Qatari government, which is strongly religious.
It also came two days after FIFA president GIanni Infantino defended the country’s human rights record in a speech and asked players to keep politics off the field, the New York Post reported.
“As national federations we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including bookings,” said the soccer federations representing the seven European nations in a joint press statement.
FIFA’s threats to issue yellow cards to participating players came hours before England team leader Harry Kane and Netherlands’ Virgil van Dijk and Wales’ Gareth Bale all agreed to participate in the protest during the games on Monday. Team captains for Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland also planned to wear the armbands on the field.
The move to protest the country’s human rights record and its stance on same-sex relationships received mixed reactions online, with some soccer fans expressing their support for the move while others condemned the teams for politicizing the event.
“Our number one priority at the World Cup is to win the games,” the Dutch soccer federation said in a statement. “Then you don’t want the captain to start the match with a yellow card.”
The “OneLove” campaign began in the Netherlands and features a heart-shaped logo designed to promote inclusivity. It’s widely understood that the campaign is intended to criticize Qatar’s treatment of African and South Asian migrant workers and its criminalization of same-sex relationships in the country.