Germany’s football players covered their mouths during the team photo before their World Cup opener against Japan on Wednesday in protest against FIFA’s ban of pro-LGBTQ+ armbands.
Germany was one of seven nations banned by FIFA from wearing the “One Love” armbands as a symbol of inclusion and diversity. The captains of all seven countries had planned to wear them. The countries were warned they would face sanctions if they defied football’s governing body.
Shortly after the team’s on-pitch protest, the German Football Association issued a statement saying: “With our captain’s armband, we wanted to set an example for values that we live in the national team: Diversity and mutual respect. Being loud together with other nations.”
“Human rights are not negotiable,” the statement added, and “denying us the armband is like denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said Tuesday that he would wear the One Love armband if he was playing at the World Cup, despite the threat of FIFA sanctions. The German FA also said it planned to take legal action against FIFA over its actions.
Six of Germany’s starting lineup, including Neuer, had rainbow colors on their boots.
Qatar has faced criticism ever since it was awarded the tournament in 2010 for its treatment of migrant workers, as well as its stance on the LGBTQ+ community and women’s rights.