England’s biggest group of LGBTQ+ supporters have suggested that David Beckham should no longer be considered a great ally or put on a pedestal after becoming a paid ambassador for the Qatar World Cup.
Di Cunningham, co-founder of the Three Lions Pride group, said she was disappointed in Beckham’s decision to accept a settlement – reportedly worth £150m – as Qatari law criminalizes same-sex relationships.
Cunningham was one of those who traveled to Russia for the 2018 World Cup and said she found most people “so, so welcoming” on her visit. However, she said Three Lions Pride would not go to Qatar because “there was no sign – as there was in Russia – of any appetite to relax or revisit the toxic environment that exists for LGBTQ+ and other minority groups.”
Speaking at a Sport & Rights Alliance press conference on Wednesday, Cunningham also praised players who have spoken out in favor of LGBT+ rights in Qatar, before turning his focus to Beckham, the former England captain.
“One of the difficulties is having people taking the money to promote Qatar and the World Cup,” she said. “I am so disappointed that we – the LGBTQ+ family of football – have put David Beckham on a pedestal, as a great ally.
“And then it turns out he’s making a lot of money to be an ambassador for this World Cup, and that’s incredibly disappointing. So I really hope the message gets across that people are criticized for it.”
Meanwhile, Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch urged FIFA never to go again
for a country that does not uphold basic human rights. “Athletes are effectively hostages,” she warned. “They are tied to the FIFA ship and have to go wherever the World Cup or the Club World Cup is. And I think for a lot of fans, athletes and others, the last decade has been a very bitter lesson.”
Worden also called for the creation of a human rights framework for future tenders before adding: “There can never be a World Cup again that does not uphold basic human rights and puts athletes whose work is their workplace in the odious position of having to fear for your identity.
“We must never again have a World Cup that does not respect basic human rights and does not have any of the expected guarantees and protections.”