ST. LOUIS – In a last-minute change, FIFA has banned players from wearing rainbow armbands in support of LGBTQA+ rights during World Cup soccer matches in Qatar.
The matches began on Monday.
There have been calls for fans to boycott over the issue. There was no sign of a boycott at the packed Amsterdam Tavern in south St. Louis during the U.S. vs. Wales and England vs. Iran matches. Nor was there any sign of support for FIFA’s stance.
“It’s 2022! I mean, come on!” one fan said.
“I’m not surprised, saw it coming a mile away,” said another.
“I would never have a sporting event in a country that doesn’t allow everyone to play,” said Jordan Braxton of Pride-St. Louis. “If homosexuality was banned in Qatar, then I would never think of having a World Cup game there.”
The English team captain, Harry Kane, still wore a captain’s armband that read, “No Discrimination.”
FIFA, the World Cup’s governing body, approves that one but not the rainbow armband with the words “One Love,” which European team captains had worn during matches leading up to the World Cup.
The captains of seven European teams planned to wear them throughout the World Cup in a host nation, Qatar, where same-sex relationships are a crime.
Braxton hoped the players would buck the ban.
“No one really wins in this situation,” Braxton said. “What a statement that would have made if you went through with this and got disqualified and stood up for other people’s rights and even the rights of your teammates… I would be applauding. I would be the first person with my bowl of popcorn there supporting the game, even though I know nothing about (soccer).”
The U.S. team has worn a rainbow crest and numbers in previous matches. Though they do not wear them in Qatar, the crest is prominently displayed at the team’s training center.
“We have this mantra of ‘Be the change,’” said U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter. “For us, it’s about starting with the individual. Understand that every individual has a right or an obligation to promote change on their own level.”
“As Nelson Mandela said, I always use this quote,” Braxton said. “‘Education is our greatest weapon in this fight against intolerance.’”