SDLP Sports Spokesperson Justin McNulty has slammed a decision by FIFA to punish footballers who wear OneLove armbands at the World Cup.
The armbands show solidarity with the LGBT+ community and teams, including England and Wales, intended to wear them to promote diversity and inclusion.
However, the teams will no longer wear them after FIFA threatened players with bookings.
SDLP Newry & Armagh MLA Justin McNulty said:
“This unedifying episode highlights exactly why the World Cup should have never been awarded to Qatar in the first place. Any country that fails to recognise the rights of the LGBT+ community and many others is not fit for the honour of hosting tournaments of this nature which traditionally attract people of all backgrounds from around the world.
“That teams and players who wanted to show their solidarity with the oppressed LGBT+ community in Qatar, who are subjected to criminal sanctions, are being prevented from doing so with the threat of on-field punishment is an absolute disgrace and brings further shame on a tournament that has had a dark cloud over it from the minute Qatar were chosen as hosts.
“While I understand the concerns of the teams and players involved, I would urge them to circumvent this ruling in innovate ways. A united stand in the face of these punishments could allow common sense to prevail. Some issues are more important than football and showing support for a group of people who live every day in fear of arrest or worse for simply being themselves should have trumped on-field concerns.
“For FIFA to sell their values to the highest bidder is entirely dishonourable, but to then move to punish those who are prepared to demonstrate courage and stand up for those values defies equality and human rights. Children and young people are watching these games in their millions. Teams and players should stand in defiance and follow the example set by Tommie Smith and John Carlos who stood up for racial justice at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. The same principles should motivate players in 2022: injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."