Don't Force Soccer Players to Wear the LGBT Flag
In international soccer matches, the US, Ireland, and some professional teams have required players to wear an LGBT rainbow on their jerseys. England required players to wear LGBT rainbow laces on their cleats. Some teams have required captains to wear an LGBT rainbow captain’s armband. Some have placed the LGBT rainbow on corner flags.
The LGBT rainbow is a political symbol. The Laws of the Game from the International Football Association Board (IFAB) state, “Equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images” (Law 04.5). FIFA’s Equipment Regulations add that this includes a ban on any “political or comparable symbol” (Article 8.3). FIFA needs to enforce its own rules.
Not everyone agrees with the causes represented by the LGBT rainbow. Players who have declined to wear the LGBT rainbow in international and league play have been harassed and now risk being disadvantaged in their careers.
When Jaelene Hinkle, a Christian professional soccer player, was called up to play on the United States Women’s National Team in June 2017, she found out the U.S. team was going to require players to wear an LGBT rainbow on their uniforms for "LGBTQ Pride month." She declined to play because she, as a Christian, felt she should not wear the jersey with the LGBT rainbow. This is unfair to her. No player should be subjected to a political test in order to be considered for a team.
FIFA and IFAB have a responsibility to assure players are judged by their soccer skills, not by their political or religious views. No one should be required to wear a political symbol with which they disagree.
Those who disagree with the politics represented by the LGBT rainbow include many religious believers, as well as those who oppose the threat that transgenderism poses to soccer for girls and women. These individuals should not be excluded from soccer just because they hold opinions that are at odds with LGBT advocates.
FIFA and IFAB need to guarantee all are welcome.
FIFA has disciplined teams for using other political symbols.
In 2016, FIFA fined the Football Association of Ireland for wearing a jersey with a text commemorating the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rebellion.
In 2017, FIFA issued a warning to Argentina for “Wearing [a captain’s] armband with a symbol.”
In 2018, England’s Football Association fined the manager of Manchester City F.C., Pep Guardiola, for violating the ban on political symbols by wearing a yellow ribbon in remembrance of what the Catalan separatists refer to as political prisoners during a match.
FIFA needs to uphold its ban on political symbols consistently and stop teams from placing political messages or symbols, such as the LGBT rainbow, on player gear, on the field, in the technical area, or on field equipment.
Our recommendations to FIFA are:
Discipline teams that violate Law 04.5 by placing political symbols, including the LGBT rainbow, on any part of the kit, protective equipment, or captain’s armband.
Support fairness and inclusion of all. Do not exclude people based on political or religious views.
Work with IFAB to revise football’s Laws of the Game to extend the ban on “political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images” on player equipment to include also all other field (e.g. corner flags) and technical area equipment, and on the field and its immediate surroundings.
Read more about FIFA bans on political symbols in soccer on page 3 of the report, “Let All Play: Yes to Soccer, No to Politics.”
Jaelene Hinkle story: https://www.letallplay.org/blog/soccer-players-say-no-to-lgbt-rainbow