Saudi Arabian club Al-Ettifaq officially introduced their newest signing, longtime Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson, on Thursday.
The club, which is paying the 33-year-old £700,000 (around $900,000) a week over three years, introduced him with a video on their social media channels.
You don’t have to be a forensic investigator to notice that the rainbow armband he often wore in support of the LGBTQ community was altered to appear in black and white.
Making the armbands black and white so you can't see the rainbow. We see you. https://t.co/X1Ts78Eodd
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) July 27, 2023
It would appear that Ettifaq have made a stylistic choice to grey out the colour of most of Jordan Henderson’s captain armbands in this video. I’m sure it has nothing to do with some of them featuring the rainbow LGBTQ+ flag though… https://t.co/Jl1eCEPqfx
— Danny Corcoran (@calcio_danny) July 27, 2023
While several high-profile soccer stars have recently accepted massive contracts from clubs in the Saudi Pro League, Henderson’s decision has been a lightning rod of controversy due to his visible support of the LGBTQ community. Some have even questioned whether or not he “was ever actually an ally.”
Saudi Arabia is extremely repressive regarding LGBTQ rights. Saudi Arabia operates an uncodified criminal code based on Sharia principles, which prohibits same-sex sexual activity. LGBTQ people have frequently been arrested and some have even been executed. “There have been consistent reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in recent years, including murder, assault, harassment, and the denial of basic rights and services,” says The Human Dignity Trust.
Saudi Arabia has been accused of using “sportswashing” to try and improve its perception in the world amidst these and other human rights violations. And the athletes who accept the lucrative paychecks they hand out are often met with criticism for selling out, especially given the role the country played in events such as September 11th.
3LionsPride, a fan group for LGBT+ England soccer supporters, shared a statement earlier last week criticizing Henderson’s impending move and what it meant in the larger sense.
A statement from our co-chairs on “allyship” in light of the rumours surrounding transfers to the Saudi Arabian league. pic.twitter.com/64XHMqKe23
— 3LIONSPRIDE ????⚽️????????️? (@3Lionspride) July 13, 2023
“Our joy for Mr Henderson when he scored against Ukraine in the Euros [quarter-final] was, in part, due to his kindness and his ‘lucky’ rainbow laces. A banner was created to commemorate the low bar he had achieved in being outspoken on our right to support England and show visibility on the pitch. If the rumours are true, then that banner will be consigned to the depths of history.