Rewe, the German supermarket chain, has terminated its sponsorship agreement with the German Football Association (DFB) in reaction to the decision by world soccer governing body FIFA’s to ban national team players from wearing the OneLove armband, a symbol of support for LGBTQ+ rights, at the ongoing World Cup in Qatar.
Rewe is the first sponsor to act after FIFA threatened to issue yellow cards to any player wearing the multi-colored armband during the tournament.
The chain said It had terminated its deal with immediate effect and waived its advertising rights under the sponsorship agreement.
It added it would give away World Cup-themed sticker albums available at its stores for free and donate proceeds from those already sold.
In a statement, Rewe chief executive Lionel Souque said: “We stand for diversity – and football is diversity too. We live this attitude and we defend this attitude – even against possible resistance.
“The scandalous attitude of FIFA is for me absolutely unacceptable as a chief executive of a diverse company and as a football fan.”
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Rewe had already informed the DFB it would not continue its partnership in October but said it wanted to end its agreement early to distance itself from FIFA’s position.
The company’s decision came after the DFB announced yesterday (November 21) that contrary to its original plan, German captain Manuel Neuer would not wear the OneLove armband due to the threat of sanctions.
Several other soccer associations had said their team captains would wear the armband in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal. However, together with Germany, the associations of England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Denmark said they would drop those plans following FIFA’s warning.
At the time, the DFB said the associations involved with the armbands were faced with “extreme blackmail,” and it had dropped its plans to protect players from having to shoulder the consequences.
Rewe’s decision reflects Germany’s negative feelings towards the tournament being hosted in Qatar, which has seen the hashtag #BoycottQatar2022 trending on Twitter in Germany and a German stadium lighting 20,000 candles representing Qatar migrant worker fatalities on Sunday.
Meanwhile, sportswear giant Adidas and other DFB sponsors have said they will not end their partnership with the DFB and were in close contact with the governing body over the issue.
In a statement, Adidas said: “We will not end the partnership. We are convinced that sports must be open to everyone.
“We support our players and teams when they are committed to positive change. Sport provides a stage for important topics. It is essential to continue the discussion.”
Separately, Deutsche Telekom said it planned to talk with the DFB about the armband controversy but would keep its sponsorship agreement.
It said: “We don’t believe in hasty decisions and first have to understand the background to the DFB’s decision. That’s why we’ll be talking to the DFB about the whole issue as soon as possible.
“Basically, Telekom stands for what connects people, societies, and cultures. It does not tolerate discriminatory acts, unethical and immoral behavior, or violation of the dignity or rights of others.”
Insurance brand Ergo-Versicherung said: “We have taken note of the decision of the DFB and the other European football associations not to wear the ‘OneLove’ bandage.
“We regret that the bandage is not worn, we support the various initiatives of the DFB with a view to human rights, diversity, and equal opportunities and are in close contact with the association.”
Image: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images