Lawmakers Rip FIFA For Threatening World Cup Players Over 'OneLove' Armbands

Two days before the World Cup final, more than two dozen U.S. senators and members of Congress on Friday lashed FIFA for threatening to punish players for wearing “OneLove” armbands in support of LGBTQ rights.

“It is our understanding that team captains from several European teams competing in the World Cup intended to wear OneLove armbands as a signal of support for LGBTQ+ inclusion and diversity, but were instructed by FIFA that doing so would result in the issuance of in-game sanctions (e.g. yellow cards),” reads a letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “This is in contrast to the typical monetary fine issued for uniform violations, and ultimately deterred players from adorning their uniforms with the armbands.”

The letter, signed by 30 Democratic lawmakers, accuses FIFA of hypocrisy given its previous vows to combat discrimination. It also raises concerns about reports of World Cup spectators wearing rainbow hats and shirts in support of LGBTQ rights being detained, harassed, denied entry to events or having their apparel confiscated during the event, which is being hosted this year by Qatar, a country with a terrible record on human rights.

“These actions have culminated in a message to LGBTQ+ people that neither they nor their allies are welcome at the World Cup, contrary to several public statements made about the tournament,” said the lawmakers.

Here’s a copy of their letter, which was led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Reps. Mark Pocan (Wis.), Mark Takano (Calif.) and Ritchie Torres (N.Y.).

The captains of seven European teams had originally planned to wear OneLove armbands in a show of protest over Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ laws. Same-sex relationships are illegal in the country and, in some instances, punishable by death. But the players ultimately opted not to do so after FIFA officials threatened to give yellow cards to anyone wearing the armband, effectively handicapping their ability to advance in the tournament.

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including bookings,” the seven soccer federations said last month in a joint statement. The teams involved were from England, the Netherlands, Wales, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark.

Harry Kane of England's national football team wears a
Harry Kane of England's national football team wears a

Harry Kane of England's national football team wears a "No Discrimination" armband during the World Cup match between England v Iran, after FIFA forbade players from wearing a "OneLove" armband in support of LGBTQ rights.

On Friday, lawmakers told Infantino they expect a “prompt” response to a few questions about future FIFA-sanctioned events.

“To what extent will FIFA consider government’s track record on LGBTQ+ rights when determining where to host future World Cups?” they ask. “Will FIFA commit to consistent future policies with respect to players’ uniforms; fans’ apparel, signs, and symbols; and other forms of expression that allows for individuals to demonstrate support for the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups?”

(The 2026 Men’s World Cup will be hosted in part by the United States, with some matches taking place in Florida and Texas, both of which have incredibly anti-LGBTQ laws on the books.)

A FIFA spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment in response to the lawmakers’ letter.

Senators on the letter are Ed Markey (Mass.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Merkley.

House members on the letter are Reps. Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.), David Cicilline (R.I.), Sara Jacobs (Calif.), Dina Titus (Nev.), Sharice Davids (Kansas), Dwight Evans (Pa.), Paul Tonko (N.Y.), Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), Nikema Williams (Ga.), Chris Pappas (N.H.), Angie Craig (Minn.), Grace Meng (N.Y.), Pocan, Takano and Torres.