A player in France’s top professional soccer league is being slammed for refusing to wear a shirt bearing a rainbow number as part of the league’s efforts to promote LGBT inclusivity.
It remained to be seen on Friday whether the league heeded calls from an LGBT advocacy group to sanction the player – and the severity of penalties the league might choose.
Idrissa Gueye is a midfielder for Paris Saint-Germain, the star-studded team in the French Ligue 1. A Muslim, Gueye is from Senegal, an Islamic country in Africa, where homosexuality is punishable by up to five years in prison (although prosecutions were rare before this year, according to ABC News). Like many Christians, some stricter Muslims believe that God designed marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman.
On May 14, the. The Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) squad traveled to the south of France to take on Montpellier in a game in which players were asked to wear shirts with rainbow-colored numbers sky, a tribute to the LGBT “pride” flag.
Although Gueye traveled with PSG for the match, he did not feature in the club’s 4-0 triumph. PSG’s other international superstars, including Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar, have done so.
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino cited ‘personal reasons’ for Gueye’s absence from the pitch. The president of the French Football Federation’s ethics council, Patrick Anton, sent the player a letter asking him to clarify why he missed the game. “Your absence has given rise to much speculation which has been widely interpreted as a refusal to participate in this anti-discrimination awareness campaign,” Anton wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Associated Press. . Anton further suggested Gueye to take a picture of him wearing the rainbow jersey.
Gueye’s predicament is reminiscent of that of Jaelene Daniels (formerly Hinkle), a defender for North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League. A devout Christian, Daniels made headlines in 2017 when she declined an invitation to compete for the United States Women’s National Team, which reportedly wore gay pride-themed jerseys with numbers in the colors of the rainbow in international “friendly matches” (essentially, glorified exhibition matches).
Daniels cited “personal reasons” for his decision not to join the national team, an eternal powerhouse on the world stage. Many reporters have speculated that Daniels’ Christian faith was behind her decision, though she didn’t confirm it until about a year later in a TV interview with Club 700. “I felt so convinced in my mind that it wasn’t my job to wear that shirt,” Hinkle told the faith-based news program.
Gueye’s religion differs from Daniels’, but the condemnation his decision has sparked is virtually the same.
“Homophobia is not an opinion but a crime,” said Rouge Direct, an organization dedicated to combating bigotry in French sport. He called on Ligue 1 and PSG to “ask Gueye to explain himself and very quickly. And punish him if necessary.
Eric Arassus, president of the French LGBT+ Sports Federation, confirmed: “Idrissa Gueye is a great player, but religion is not part of sport. All the players participated except him. He should be punished.
But Senegalese leaders, past and present, have expressed support for Gueye. “His religious convictions must be respected,” tweeted the country’s president, Macky Sall.
Abdoul Mbaye, the former Prime Minister of Senegal, did the same, declaring that Gueye “is not homophobic. He does not want his image to be used to promote homosexuality. Leave him alone.”
British commentator Piers Morgan also defended Gueye in the London newspaper The sun. While hailing British soccer player Jake Daniels as “bold, brave and inspiring” for coming out as gay in the days following what Morgan called Gueye’s “silent stance”, Morgan also called on fans to stand up. of religious tolerance towards Gueye.
“If Gueye were to publicly declaim homophobic bigotry it would be appalling and he should be punished,” Morgan wrote. “But he didn’t, and he shouldn’t be forced to promote something he might not personally agree with, or be punished for exercising his right to free speech by choosing to don’t wear the colors of the rainbow.”
Morgan also called PSG’s participation in the pro-LGBT match “hypocritical”.
“PSG is owned by the Emir of Qatar where it is illegal to be gay and Muslims like Gueye can be executed for it,” he wrote.
PSG’s next game is scheduled for Saturday against Metz on the PSG pitch. Neither PSG nor Ligue 1 have indicated whether Gueye will play.
If he does, however, he could get the same reception Jaelene Daniels received in her first game after her. Club 700 interview. Pro-LGBT fans at both clubs would boo her every time she touched the ball.