America’s top diplomat on Tuesday criticized a decision by FIFA to threaten players at the World Cup with yellow cards if they wear armbands supporting inclusion and diversity.
Speaking alongside his Qatari counterpart at a news conference, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was “always concerning … when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression.”
“It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken said at Doha’s Diplomatic Club. “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.”
Just hours before the first players with the armbands in support of the “One Love” campaign were to take the field on Monday, soccer’s governing body warned they would immediately be shown yellow cards — two of which lead to a player’s expulsion from that game and also the next.
No player wore the “One Love” armbands Monday though seven European teams had said they planned to wear them ahead of the tournament.
England’s Harry Kane wore a FIFA-approved “No Discrimination” armband that was offered as a compromise in the match with Iran. FIFA has tried to counter the Europeans’ campaign with its own armbands featuring more generic slogans backed by some United Nations agencies