German supermarket chain Rewe on Tuesday ditched its advertising campaign with the German Football Association (DFB) after FIFA prohibited the wearing of ‘OneLove’ armbands, an initiative to celebrate diversity at the Qatar World Cup.
In September, the DFB released a statement “against discrimination” saying national team captain Manuel Neuer would wear a “special armband” with rainbow colors for the “upcoming Nations League games and during the World Cup in Qatar.”
But on Monday, that plan was shelved after soccer’s global governing body threatened to issue yellow cards to any player wearing the armband at the World Cup, currently taking place in Qatar.
The decision to abandon the German national team by one of the country’s biggest grocery stores makes it the first sponsor to take action in the wake of the decision of seven nations to take heed of FIFA’s threat by backing down from its plan to have their captains where the symbol.
“We stand up for diversity — and football is also diversity. We live this position and we defend it,” said Rewe Group chief executive Lionel Souque.
“FIFA’s scandalous attitude is absolutely unacceptable,” he added.
Rewe also announced it would start giving away World Cup-themed cards, available at its stores as part of the agreement it had with the DFB, for free.
Meanwhile, the DFB said it was considering legal action over the armband issue.
In German newspaper Bild DFB spokesman Steffen Simon said: “FIFA has forbidden us to make a sign for diversity and human rights. It has combined this with massive threats of sporting sanctions without specifying them. The DFB is checking whether this action by FIFA was lawful.”
The ‘OneLove’ campaign is a joint initiative with the national teams of England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Wales, France, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, along with Germany. The soccer associations from the aforementioned countries that qualified for the World Cup said their captains would wear the rainbow armbands in Qatar, where where homosexuality is illegal, before backing down from the initiative just hours before England’s match with Iran.
The idea was initially proposed by European soccer’s governing body UEFA and was aimed at dealing with issues relating to human and workers rights in Qatar.
In Germany, there has been a backlash to the tournament in recent weeks, with some bars refusing to show the games, while the hashtag #BoycottQatar2022 has been trending on Twitter.
On Sunday, masses of grave candles illuminated a football stadium in the western German city of Herne as the controversial World Cup got under way in Qatar.
The action by the workers’ welfare agency AWO and the artist Volker-Johannes Trieb commemorated the more than 15,000 migrant workers who have died in Qatar in the past decade, according to Qatari government statistics.
Altogether 6,500 footballs filled with sand were also placed on the playing field in the stadium, reflecting another estimate of migrant deaths based on figures provided by non-Qatari governments.
Reuters contributed to this article.