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Yes, FIFA, LGBT Rainbow is Political

According to soccer's Laws of the Game, Law 04, Section 5, states: “Equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images”; and the FIFA Equipment Regulations, Article 8, Section 3, expand this ban to include “a political or comparable symbol.”

Is the LGBT Rainbow political? Yes, it is.

The LGBT rainbow is viewed internationally as a political symbol and a political statement.

According to Gilbert Baker, the designer who, in 1978, first used a rainbow as a symbol for LGBT causes, “For the past almost 40 years, the rainbow flag has stood as a politically powerful, meaningful, and also aesthetically effective symbol.”[7]

Justin Parkinson of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) described the LGBT rainbow today as “among the best-known political symbols in the world.”[8] A 2016 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report about the rainbow flag explained that its “basic visibility is still deeply political” and “in much of the world, the flag is still as politically charged as it was 37 years ago in San Francisco.”[9]

In 2018, the American magazine InStyle explained “today, the rainbow flag is also used to express political solidarity with the LGBTQ community.”[10] Dr. Michael Murphy, an associate professor of Gender & Sexuality Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, observed the “intuitive power of the rainbow as a metaphor for political unity.”[11]

The authors of an academic article on the “pride semiotics” of the rainbow observed “the pride rainbow has been part of political and social intervention for decades,” including at international “pride festivals... that continue to be political acts when flags are flown at pride events held across the world.” The researchers explained that “young people...strengthen these associations when they meet others wearing the rainbow and use it for peer-based politicised campaigns.” Moreover, “the local display of rainbows at school, in health centres, businesses and in neighbourhoods, participates in creating both individual symbolic meanings that help youth navigate and connect with others as well as the political production of global imagined communities.”[12]

The view that the LGBT rainbow is political is international. Murphy explained that “the rainbow flag has been intuitively understood and embraced worldwide.”[13] Security personnel at a 2016 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) match between Iceland and Austria prohibited a fan from bringing an LGBT rainbow flag into the Stade de France because they deemed the flag to be a “political statement.”[14] In a recent case in Germany, a landlord was able to bar a renter from hanging an LGBT rainbow flag from a balcony on the grounds that the LGBT rainbow flag is “a political symbol.”[15] The German edition of Vogue calls the LGBT rainbow not only a “fashion” statement but also a “political-social” statement.[16] In 2016, an elementary school in the U.S. removed an LGBT rainbow flag because it was deemed “too political.”[17]

When the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) announced that the players on the national men’s team of the Republic of Ireland would wear an LGBT rainbow on their kit in an international match during “pride month” in 2018, the federation tweeted: “The back of tomorrow’s match kit. Not just a number, this is a statement. Ireland, supporting #LGBT rights. #EqualGame #COYBIG #COYGIG #IRLUSA”.[18] Note: “supporting #LGBT rights.”

Rights exist in legal structures. Legal structures exist in governance. Governance is political.

Another example of the political nature of the LGBT rainbow symbol was seen in Germany’s Bundesliga. In a 2018 press release explaining its decision to require all team captains on all of its teams to wear an LGBT rainbow captain’s armband, the Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg proclaimed, “One Team, One Belief.”[19] VfL Wolfsburg was making clear that the purpose of requiring wearing the LGBT rainbow symbol is to require conformity of viewpoint, i.e., conformity of politics, in its club. Ironically, the press release proclaimed that VfL Wolfsburg “stands for diversity,”[20] and VfL Wolfsburg tweeted the rainbow armband is “a clear sign against exclusion and for diversity.”[21]

In fact, the requirement to wear this symbol is explicitly exclusionary against those who disagree with the political message of the LGBT rainbow.

This blog post is from pages 5-6 of the 2019 report, "Let All Play: Yes to Soccer, No to Politics". The footnotes in this blog post are on pages 26-27 of the report. CLICK to view the full report.

CLICK to read about VfL Wolfsburg's 2019 use of the LGBT rainbow on the kit.


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