Policy

German players cover mouths in protest at World Cup

Players from Germany pose for the team photo as they cover their mouth during the World Cup group E soccer match between Germany and Japan, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.
Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press
Players from Germany pose for the team photo as they cover their mouth during the World Cup group E soccer match between Germany and Japan, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.

Members of Germany’s national soccer team protested FIFA’s ban on players wearing LGBTQ armbands at the World Cup by covering their mouths when posing for a team photo.

All players for Germany’s starting 11 posed for the team’s official photo before their opening match Wednesday against Japan by using their right hand to cover their mouth.

The protest was in response to the international soccer governing body’s threat to impose sanctions on Germany and six other European nations if their players wore rainbow-printed armbands in support of LGBTQ rights during this year’s World Cup tournament. 

According to FIFA rules, players are required to wear only what is authorized as part of their team’s uniform. On Monday, the organization threatened to issue yellow cards to players who break the rules.

The seven European nations competing in the World Cup said in a joint statement to ESPN earlier this week that they all plan to abandon wearing OneLove anti-discrimination armbands due to fears of FIFA sanctions.

In a Twitter thread, Germany’s national team said they wanted to wear the armband in support of their captain, Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, and his advocacy on LGTBQ issues. 

“We wanted to use our captain’s armband to take a stand for values that we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect,” the team said. “Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.”

“It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us,” the team added. “Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”

Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser also wore a OneLove anti-discrimination armband in support of the national team’s stance on the issue. 

This comes as Qatar, the host country of this year’s World Cup, has faced criticism over its human rights record and condemnation for outlawing homosexuality.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared his concerns about FIFA’s ban on players wearing LGBTQ armbands during a press conference on Tuesday, saying no player “should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.” 

Germany, who last won the World Cup in 2014, lost their opening Group E match against Japan 2-1 on Wednesday. 

Tags anti-LGBT discrimination Antony Blinken FIFA FIFA World Cup Germany LGBTQ rights LGBTQ rights Manuel Neuer Manuel Neuer Nancy Faesar Qatar

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