After accepting a tourism ambassadorship for Qatar leading up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, UK footballer David Beckham has come under fire for the controversial comments he made about LQBTQ safety in the Gulf nation during a recent red carpet appearance.
The former footballer and ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ has stirred controversy after stating that LQBTQ people had “been treated perfectly fine” while visiting Qatar for the FIFA World Cup. This comes after considerable public backlash against the sporting icon over the past year for his role as a Qatari ambassador.
While promoting his Netflix documentary Beckham at a recent red carpet event, Beckham was questioned about his career ties to the nation that held the 2022 tournament. When asked if he was affected by the negative press and public response surrounding it, he said no.
“Whatever partnership I go into, we always do our homework on everything,” was his diplomatic response. “We knew there were going to be people that were going to either talk about it a little bit more or let the football do the talking.” But it was his next comments that surprised some and outraged others.
In response to criticisms of the Qatar government’s stance on homosexuality, Beckham told the interviewer, “I had a lot of conversations with the LBGTQ people when I was there. They said they’d been treated perfectly fine, they’d enjoyed the games.” He took this a step further, stating that many LGBTQ people felt it “was the safest World Cup that they’d had for a long time.”
Not a Safe Haven
Qatar has some of the world’s harshest laws against homosexuality and has even been named one of the least LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world. Which is why so many have spoken out against Beckham’s red-carpet comments.
With a long history of human rights issues, including against women and migrant workers, Beckham’s claims about Qatar seem like a stretch at best. And at worst, they contain harmful misinformation.
Speaking for His Country
One of Beckham’s most vocal detractors has been Dr. Nas Mohamed, a gay man who grew up in Qatar and is now working as a physician in San Francisco. He has hit back at the footballer’s comments, claiming that being gay in Qatar is “scary” and “dangerous.”
“Did he just bring an American gay person with him? Is that what happened?” Mohamed continued in an interview with Outsports. “When we talk about LGBTQ issues, we include us — the local community that is impacted. There are facts about LGBTQ Qataris that are out there now.”
World Cup Ambassador
Beckham was announced as a tourist ambassador for Qatar during the lead-up to the World Cup. With Qatar’s poor human rights record and treatment of LGBTQ people, he received plenty of criticism for promoting the country and the event.
Not all of the backlash was based on the treatment of the Qatari LGBTQ community either. Much of it had to do with significant issues around lax worker protection and human rights violations during the World Cup building project in Qatar.
Another element of this controversy comes from Beckham’s long history as a vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights and representation. For some of his fans, watching the star take money from an anti-LGBTQ government seemed like the ultimate slap in the face.
Money Over Values
A lot of this backlash has occurred in online communities, particularly on X – the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Many people, both inside and outside of the LGBTQ community, have shared their anger and disappointment over Beckham’s comments.
One X user angrily accused him of “[profiting] off the gay community for years, yet when the time came to actually show support that didn’t have financial upsides they bailed.” While another claimed he is “blatantly lying or he had his head in the sand for the entire World Cup. Just outrageous comments from him.”
A Proud Supporter
But the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player summed up his experience as a Qatari World Cup ambassador by saying, “At the end of the day it was an important competition and one I was proud to be part of.”
Since he is still receiving millions of dollars per year to promote Qatari tourism and international interests, many are wondering if David Beckham has truly sold his ideals for a massive cash boost.
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