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Denmark’s World Cup jerseys protest labor practices in Qatar

Denmark will compete in the World Cup later this year. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

As November’s World Cup in Qatar nears, calls to draw more attention to the treatment of the migrant workers who constructed the stadiums and infrastructure that will host the tournament have continued.

Human rights advocacy organizations last week urged World Cup sponsors to push FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, and the Qatari government to compensate those workers, thousands of whom were made to work in conditions “amounting to forced labor,” according to Amnesty International.

Danish sportswear company Hummel has taken its own stance on the issue. On Wednesday it announced the jersey designs for Denmark’s national team, which the company said are meant to protest Qatar and its human rights record.

“While we support the Danish national team all the way, this shouldn’t be confused with support for a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives,” the company said on Instagram, highlighting an all-black jersey meant to represent “mourning.”

“We wish to make a statement about Qatar’s human rights record and its treatment of the migrant workers that have built the country’s World Cup stadiums.”

Denmark’s new uniforms are meant to pay homage in addition to raise awareness.

Hummel said it is paying tribute to Denmark’s 1992 team, which won the European Championship to secure the country’s first international trophy. But the designs, which include all-white and all-red ensembles, also serve as “a protest against Qatar and its human rights record.

“That’s why we’ve toned down all the details for Denmark’s new World Cup jerseys, including our logo and iconic chevrons,” the company said. “We don’t wish to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives. We support the Danish national team all the way, but that isn’t the same as supporting Qatar as a host nation.”

Since awarding the tournament to Qatar in 2010, FIFA has faced criticism for selecting a nation with a checkered human rights record and for locating the tournament in a region where triple-digit heat prompted an unprecedented move out of the summer months. In 2020, the Department of Justice accused Qatar of bribing top officials to secure hosting rights to the World Cup, an allegation that FIFA officials and Qatari organizers have denied.

In preparation to host the Middle East’s first World Cup, Qatar has modernized its infrastructure, expanding its main airport and public transportation systems and building stadiums and hotels. Foreign workers flocked to the country to build those infrastructure projects, but human rights groups have alleged abuses of those workers, which groups such as Amnesty International say include injuries, deaths and wage theft. The Guardian reported last year that 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka died in Qatar from late 2010 to 2020.

Hummel’s announcement comes as human rights organizations continue to push sponsors to advocate for migrant worker compensation. Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters last week that sponsors should pressure FIFA and Qatar to fulfill their responsibilities to the workers.

“Brands buy rights to sponsor the World Cup because they want to be associated with joy, fair competition and spectacular human achievement on the field — not rampant wage theft and the deaths of workers who made the World Cup possible,” Worden said.

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