Nov 22, 2022 - World

Blinken criticizes FIFA's threats over rainbow armbands at World Cup

Antony Blinken holds a press conference with Qatar's Foreign Minister

Antony Blinken at a press conference in Doha on Nov. 22. Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday criticized FIFA's decision to threaten sporting sanctions against team captains who wear rainbow "one love" armbands, calling the move "concerning."

Driving the news: Seven European teams announced on Monday that they had abandoned plans to wear the armbands — intended as a show of inclusion and anti-discrimination — following FIFA's threat of sanctions, which would include automatic yellow cards.

  • "We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play," the soccer associations said in a joint statement.
  • FIFA announced Monday that it would allow team captains to wear FIFA's own "no discrimination" armband throughout the tournament.

What they're saying: During a press briefing at Doha’s Diplomatic Club, Blinken said it was “always concerning ... when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression," AP reported.

  • “It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” he added.
  • “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.”
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