NJ's LGBTQ+ leaders and FIFA join forces to combat discrimination at 2026 World Cup

Last year’s FIFA World Cup found itself at the center of controversy around its host country Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ stances. Now, with some of the 2026 Men's World Cup games scheduled to take place in New Jersey, the state’s LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce has already began collaborating with international soccer’s governing body to ensure a safe, inclusive tournament.

FIFA team members will discuss their diversity, equity and inclusion initiative and efforts to fend off discrimination at the 2026 World Cup at a September event hosted by the New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce. The soccer organization agreed New Jersey will be the “starting point of this new initiative,” according to the Chamber.

With this partnership, the Chamber aims to ensure “anti-LGBT posture supported at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar does not happen here in the U.S.”

“As the son of a professional soccer player and a soccer player myself, being here to witness and be part of FIFA’s new initiative to stop discrimination in the sport I love is amazing,” said Gus Penaranda, the executive director of New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce.

“I did not play soccer for most of my young life because of my fear that I would be outed and I hope no other person, young or old, has to ever give up playing the sport they love because of such fear,” Penaranda said.

Attendees can ask FIFA representatives questions about the governing body's anti-discrimination projects either in person at William Paterson University’s Shea Center for the Performing Arts or by submitting them online.

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The conversation, scheduled for Sept. 23 at 1 p.m., will be broadcast via livestream for people around the world to access. Both livestream and in-person access to the event is free, but guests attending at William Paterson must register ahead of time on the Chamber’s website.

The New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce said it hopes this event and the tournament drives revenue to local businesses, particularly those that are LGBTQ-owned, and draws attention to area sports leagues.

FIFA anticipates hosting seven 2026 World Cup matches at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: New Jersey LGBTQ+ Chamber, FIFA prep for inclusive 2026 World Cup