Both English and German football associations are considering legal action against FIFA after the sports body banned players from wearing OneLove armbands promoting diversity and inclusion at the World Cup in Qatar.
The German Football Association (DFB) may file a claim with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland to challenge the legality of FIFA’s threat to punish players who wear the armband, according to German tabloid Bild.
“Fifa has banned us from showing diversity and human rights,” a DFB spokesperson told Bild in a statement. “She combined this with massive threats of sporting sanctions without specifying them. The DFB is checking whether this action by FIFA was legal.”
England’s Football Association is also considering legal action, according to The Telegraph.
Several European team captains planned to wear the OneLove armbands at the World Cup to show support for the LGBTQ community, but homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and the armbands were seen as a symbol of protest.
FIFA this week threatened sanctions against teams for wearing the armbands, including issuing yellow cards to players who breach the ban.
The threats led to seven European teams this week abandoning a plan for captains to wear the armbands.
Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken said it was “worrying” to see the restriction on freedom of expression.
“This is especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken said at Doha’s Diplomatic Club on Tuesday. “And in my judgment, no one on a football field should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.”
German soccer players covered their mouths with their hands before their match with Japan on Wednesday to protest against the ban on the armband and several officials from European football’s governing body rejected the FIFA decision.
Bernd Neuendorf, president of the German Football Federation, told reporters on Monday that the decision was “another low blow” for FIFA.
“From our point of view, it is more than frustrating and, I think, an unprecedented performance in World Cup history,” he said.
Since awarding this year’s World Cup in 2010, Qatar has come under fire for its criminalization of homosexuality and its treatment of migrant workers.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino last week defended the Middle Eastern nation and accused the Western world of hypocrisy for criticizing Qatar’s human rights record.
Blinken also applauded Qatar for its improved human rights situation during his speech earlier this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.