Top US diplomat criticizes FIFA armband threat at World Cup

Nov 22, 2022, 4:27 AM | Updated: 6:27 am
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and Qatar Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Adb...

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and Qatar Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Adbulrahman Al Thani, left, walk to a media event at the Diplomatic Club, in Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. America's top diplomat criticized a decision by FIFA to threaten players at the World Cup with yellow cards if they wear armbands supporting inclusion and diversity. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — 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.

Asked to respond to Blinken’s comments, FIFA referred to an earlier statement about allowing the “No Discrimination” armbands at the tournament, as part of a compromise it tried to strike with soccer federations.

Blinken arrived in Qatar on Monday, where he visited a youth soccer program tied to the World Cup. He later watched the U.S. tie with Wales on Monday night.

While openly critical of FIFA, Blinken struck a more measured tone with Qatar. This energy-rich Mideast nation has been criticized ahead of the tournament over its treatment of migrant laborers and criminalizing gay and lesbian sex.

“We know that without workers, including many migrant workers, this World Cup simply would not have been possible,” Blinken said. “Qatar has made meaningful strides in recent years to its labor laws to expand worker rights.”

However, he made a point to add: “Real work remains on these issues, and the United States will continue to work with Qatar on strengthening labor rights and human rights more broadly long after the World Cup is over.”

Blinken spoke alongside Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, at the news conference. Asked by a Qatar-based journalist about the “media attacks” on his country, Sheikh Mohammed dismissed them.

“As for the reforms the state of Qatar, I think there were some quarters who did not take this into consideration and relied on preconceived notions,” he said. “Of course we cannot change the opinion of those who just want to attack us or distort our image.”

Blinken’s visit comes as part of a strategic dialogue with Qatar, which also hosts some 8,000 American troops at its massive Al-Udeid Air Base that’s serves as the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command. The base was a key node in America’s chaotic 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan and evacuation of Afghan civilians.

One major issue to discuss is Iran. Nonproliferation experts say Iran now has enough uranium enriched up to 60% — a short step from weapons-grade levels — to reprocess into fuel for a nuclear weapon if it chooses to do so.

Tehran insists its program is peaceful, though it has drastically expanded it since the collapse of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Meanwhile, Iran is being shaken by monthslong protests following the Sept. 16 death in custody of a 22-year-old woman arrested by the country’s morality police.

A crackdown by authorities and violence surrounding the demonstrations have killed at least 434 people, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been monitoring the protests. Iran is playing at the World Cup as well, and will face the U.S. on Nov. 29.

“The world is rightly focused on what’s happening inside of Iran,” Blinken said. “The protests that have arisen since the killing of Mahsa Amini are something that have galvanized the world.”

Questioned about the U.S. recent decision to shield Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the lawsuit targeting him for the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Blinken said the Biden administration would “simply follow the law” in terms of granting immunity to a head of state.

Blinken added there were no plans for the crown prince to visit the U.S.

___

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE -- Beer bottles are filled at the Veltins beer brewery in Meschede, Germany, Wednesday, Aug. 2...
Associated Press

German beer sales up in 2022 after COVID pushed them down

BERLIN (AP) — German beer sales rose in 2022 after COVID-19 restrictions weighed on brewers in the previous two years, but the long-term trend remains downward and the World Cup soccer tournament in Qatar didn’t get the taps flowing, according to official figures released Wednesday. The Federal Statistical Office said that German-based breweries and distributors […]
3 hours ago
In this photo provided by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, its members search for a r...
Associated Press

Radioactive capsule that fell off truck found in Australia

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Authorities in Western Australia on Wednesday recovered a tiny but dangerous radioactive capsule that fell off a truck while being transported along a 1,400-kilometer (870-mile) Outback highway last month in what an official said was like finding the needle in the haystack. Officials said the capsule the size of a pea […]
3 hours ago
FILE - Ozzy Osbourne arrives at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on Jan. 26, 202...
Associated Press

Ozzy Osbourne cancels 2023 European tour dates, cites injury

Hard rock legend Ozzy Osbourne announced the cancellation of his 2023 tour dates in the U.K. and continental Europe. Osbourne issued a statement early Wednesday saying damage to his spine suffered in an accident four years ago will prevent him from touring. “I am honestly humbled by the way you’ve all patiently held onto your […]
3 hours ago
A view of a placard as ambulance workers stand on the picket line outside Leeds Ambulance Station i...
Associated Press

Day of disruption in UK as thousands join mass walkout

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of schools in the U.K. are closing some or all of their classrooms, train services will be paralyzed and delays are expected at airports Wednesday in what’s shaping up to be the biggest day of industrial action Britain has seen in more than a decade, as unions step up pressure on […]
3 hours ago
Currency traders watch computer monitors at a foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, ...
Associated Press

Global stocks higher ahead of Fed rate decision

BEIJING (AP) — Global stocks rose Wednesday while Wall Street futures declined ahead of what traders hope will be the last Federal Reserve interest rate hike for some time. London and Frankfurt opened hire. Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong advanced. Oil prices gained. Traders expect the Fed to raise its benchmark lending rate but hope […]
1 day ago
FILE - Abortion-rights protesters project messages to a building during an event sponsored by Susan...
Associated Press

Anti-abortion activists aim to sway GOP White House hopefuls

CHICAGO (AP) — Emboldened anti-abortion activists are looking to the 2024 presidential election as an opportunity to solidify their influence over the Republican Party. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the most influential group in the anti-abortion movement, is telling each potential GOP presidential hopeful that to win its backing — or avoid being a target […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
Top US diplomat criticizes FIFA armband threat at World Cup