Democrats slam FIFA over ban on LGBTQ armbands at World Cup


A group of 30 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino on Friday slamming the organization’s ban on players wearing rainbow LGBTQ armbands at the World Cup in Qatar. 

The signers of the letter, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Reps. Mark Pocan (Wis.), Mark Takano (Calif.) and Ritchie Torres (N.Y.), said they are concerned about FIFA’s decision to penalize players in the World Cup for wearing “OneLove” armbands and reports that spectators wearing clothing indicating support for the LGBTQ community have been confronted by officials at events. 

“Soccer is often called the universal language, but FIFA’s position undermines the sport’s power of transcending divisions and bringing people together,” the lawmakers said. 

The Dutch Football Association reportedly started the “OneLove” campaign at the start of the 2020 soccer season to express their support for “unification of all people.” 

The lawmakers said they heard of team captains from several European teams in the World Cup who intended to wear the armbands but were instructed that doing so would result in in-game sanctions like yellow cards. They noted that a monetary fine is usually issued for uniform violations. 

FIFA has faced controversy throughout the World Cup over its choice of Qatar, a country with strong anti-LGBTQ policies that has been criticized for a range of human rights abuses, to host the competition.

The signers said reports have indicated that spectators wearing clothing to support the LGBTQ community have been detained, harassed, denied entry to events or had their apparel confiscated. 

They said these actions go against FIFA’s own commitments from its “No Discrimination” campaign and statements supporting the “OneLove” campaign. 

“Indeed, with the 2026 World Cup set to be hosted by in North America—including 60 matches set to be played in the United States—we cannot remain silent while this discrimination continues,” the lawmakers added. “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.” 

The lawmakers asked Infantino to answer questions about what extent FIFA considers a government’s track record on LGBTQ rights when determining future World Cup hosts, if the organization will commit to allowing players and spectators to show support for the LGBTQ community in the future and if FIFA will review its protocols for how it engages with host country governments. 

“We look forward to your prompt response and assurances that future FIFA events are inclusive to all,” they said. 

The Hill has reached out to FIFA for comment.

Tags armbands FIFA Gianni Infantino Gianni Infantino Jeff Merkley Jeff Merkley LGBTQ community Mark Pocan Mark Takano OneLove Qatar World Cup Ritchie Torres World Cup

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