If you’ll excuse the pun, I’ve got some skin in the game of what I’m about to write about.
The #RainbowLaces campaign.
As I’ve previously written, inspired by the successful anti-homophobia campaign in football run by the Stonewall Foundation, SKINS got together with Australia’s Pride in Diversity LGBTI advocacy organisation last year to run the first #RainbowLaces campaign down under. Being a special sporting environment in Australia, we didn’t just focus on football but the other major sporting codes also – Australian Rules, rugby league, rugby union and netball – through a Rainbow Round of Sport.
So, of course, my interest was piqued when I read this piece about Russian MPs wanting to ban the global sensation video game by EA Sports – FIFA 17 – because they see it as violating Russia’s draconian law on LGBTI issues.
You know the law I mean. I have written about it previously also. The one Russia introduced in 2013 that vilifies LGBTI people and prohibits publication of any information about gay relationships.
There are two things I want to mention in relation to this latest sporting absurdity from Russia.
First, we’re four months out yet, but SKINS Australia is gearing up for a second very big year of the #RainbowLaces campaign across the five major sports, and hopefully a few additional ones. More on that later. Reports like this one out of Russia make it even more critical for brands such as SKINS to keep supporting these social issues that say so much about our society.
Second and more critically, in a little over six months, Russia hosts its next major world sporting event – the FIFA Confederations Cup. In 18 months, it’s the FIFA World Cup again.
In the six years since the corrupt FIFA Executive Committee made the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively, much has been written, said and reported on. Most of it has been about Qatar. It was so obviously ‘out of the box’ that everyone collectively had a “WTF?!” moment which has continued to this day!
SKINS, together with the ITUC, Playfair Qatar and #NewFIFANow, has certainly shone a light on the ‘Hypocrisy World Cup’ and the giant gap between the rhetoric of FIFA’s partners on business integrity and human rights and their practice in supporting the organisation that makes such decisions.
At the same time, to a very great extent, Russia has flown under the radar.
While most of us have had our eyes focused on the human and workers rights abuses and the heat of the Middle East (and how they won), we’ve tended to ignore Russia which won the 2018 vote in just two rounds of voting (Qatar took four rounds).
- Human Rights Watch states that Russia’s “crackdown on civil society, media and the Internet took a more sinister turn in 2015 as the government intensified harassment and persecution of independent critics.” (Read HRW’s assessment here).
- Russia was denied membership of the UN human rights council in October.
- They’re ruled by a man who has been in charge, in one role or another, continuously for almost 17 years.
- And now they want EA Sports to alter their FIFA 17 game to delete support for the #RainbowLaces campaign.
I’ve got four words for EA Sports: PLEASE DON’T DO IT!
Instead, join me and my colleagues at #NewFIFANow as we continue to put pressure on sport, including football, to be responsive to all of the games stakeholders.
And as much as Russia and their partners, such as FIFA and the IOC, might not want to know – this includes LGBTI people and helping to stamp out homophobia from sport, sporting organisations and society.