Focus on the Washington Spirit needs to spark a larger conversation

Washington Spirit (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Washington Spirit (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

As the Washington Spirit prepares to visit Qatar, a larger conversation is brewing

NWSL club Washington Spirit have been the focus of many in the women’s soccer community due to the club making a trip to visit Qatar for a one-week stay. The focus is on the Spirit because Qatar is known for its discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, and recently, its abuse of workers building stadiums leading up to the 2022 World Cup set to be held in Qatar.

Multiple players made the trip from Washington, D.C. to Qatar, after going through COVID-19 protocols. According to the press release provided by the club, those who made the trip will participate in the following activities:

  • A tour of the Qatar Foundation’s Education City
  • An event with the Qatar National Women’s Team
  • The 2021 Qatar-USA ‘Year of Culture” logo reveal
  • A tour of the National Museum of Qatar
  • A soccer clinic with Best Buddies
  • Qatar National Day of Celebration

The activities follow multiple players from the Spirit participating in the Qatar National Day of Sport earlier this year. The event was held on Feb. 7 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.

It doesn’t take much scrolling on Twitter or much thinking to see and understand why the Spirit are receiving negative attention for this decision. The NWSL prides itself on being a very progressive league and welcoming of all people. So, having a club travel to a country that opposes those values raised a lot of eyebrows across the league and soccer community.

However, these issues are not limited to Qatar and are unfortunately very prevalent in multiple areas across the world. Specifically, the United Arab Emirates.

"“As for gay people, homosexuality is still a criminal offence in the UAE that warrants the death penalty,” Radha Stirling, founder of UAE legal watchdog ‘Detained in Dubai’ said in an interview with Forbes with Michael Goldstein."

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The UAE government owns the Emirates Group which is the parent owner of Emirates Airline, the region’s biggest airline and kit sponsor of numerous big soccer clubs in the world. Including but not limited to Arsenal, Real Madrid, and recently agreed to a deal with French side Lyon.

The UAE government also owns the Etihad Aviation Group, another massive airline of the region and kit sponsors of Manchester City and New York CIty F.C. here in Major League Soccer.

These multi-billion dollar clubs are sponsored by an organization that is owned by a government that punishes members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The point is not to deflect attention off of the Spirit. Many people are frustrated with the Spirit’s decision to travel to a country as opposed to the very values the NWSL holds dearly. However, this issue is not limited to one club traveling to Qatar for a week.

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It is an issue that is in clubs all around the world as they wear kits that display companies opposed to basic human rights. Many people have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Spirit’s choice to travel to Qatar. However, this problem is not limited to one club but is something the global soccer community has to fight through to see real progress. Let the focus on the Spirit spark a larger conversation in the world’s game.