European Soccer Association Dealing With Major Controversy Over LGBTQ Rainbows

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Allianz Arena In LGBT Rainbow Colors

The Union of European Football Association (UEFA) is in hot water following their “shameful” refusal of the Mayor of Munich’s request that they light Allianz Arena in rainbow colors representing LGBTQ pride.

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter requested that the stadium a be lit in rainbow colors during the Germany-Hungary soccer match on Wednesday in response to the anti-LGBT+ youth laws passed last week.

Hungary's national parliament has banned from schools any educational programs and materials in which homosexuality is mentioned, referring to such content as the "promotion" of homosexuality.

Reiter wanted to “send a visible sign of solidarity” with Hungary’s LGBTQIA+ community by lighting up the Allianz Arena, raising rainbow-colored flags at the Munich town hall and illuminating a wind turbine close to the stadium.

Why did the UEFA refuse the Mayor of Munich's request to light Allianz Arena in rainbow colors?

On Monday, Hungarian Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, said that the plan to light the Munich stadium in rainbow colors was “harmful and dangerous.”

The following day, the association issued a decision, saying “UEFA is a politically and religiously neutral organisation.”

“Given the political context of this request,” the organization's statement continued, “a message aimed at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament — UEFA must refuse.”

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Upon learning of the UEFA'S refusal, Reiter responded by saying that he will decorate other key landmarks instead.

“I find it shameful,” he said, “that UEFA forbids us to send a sign for cosmopolitanism, tolerance, respect, and solidarity with the people of the LGBTIQ community.”

Club teams in Frankfurt and Cologne are lighting up their arenas in rainbow colors, and Berlin's Olympic Stadium is being lit to show support as well.

"We are happy to participate," says Christoph Meyer, spokesman for Olympic Stadium, "because we are committed to tolerance and human rights."

UEFA has a history of tackling homophobia and racism among the audience and players, as well as advocating for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, so this ruling comes as a shock to many football fans.

Deputy Mayor of Berlin and Senator for Economics, Energy and Business Ramona Pop tweeted, “You are always happy to be celebrated for actions against homophobia and racism, but forbid a rainbow arena at Euro 2020 as a symbol of tolerance and diversity. What an indictment, UEFA!"

UEFA offered alternative dates on which they would be willing to light up the arena in rainbow colors — like June 28th, which is Christopher Street Liberation Day (known to many as the anniversary of the Stonewall riots), or from July 3rd to 9th, which is Pride week in Munich — saying they believe these dates “align better with existing events."

But those who wish to support their LGBT community say such a delay would undermine Munich’s planned protest.

Reiter called the suggestion “A laughable counter-proposal,” saying, “I don’t know what the point of this proposal is supposed to be.”

Regardless, UEFA is standing firm in their decision to not step on the toes of the Hungarian Parliament.

Despite their claim of political and religious neutrality, UEFA's actions say otherwise.

According to the rules the organization sets for players and for themselves, no one is allowed to make political or religious statements of any kind.

However, when goalkeeper Manuel Neuer started to wear a rainbow-colored captain’s armband during Germany’s Euro Cup games, they launched an investigation into the matter.

On Monday, they announced that they would drop the inquiry because they deemed that Neuer to be “promoting a good cause.”

The association has previously said Neuer wears the rainbow armband as a symbol of "the whole team's clear commitment to diversity, openness, tolerance and against hatred and exclusion."

Hungary is also currently facing a UEFA probe after Black France players faced vile racist remarks and chants during their game, as well as homophobic chants that took place during their loss against Portugal.

Before the pandemic, UEFA tweeted that Euro 2020 would be “a tournament for everyone” and included a rainbow emoji as well as the hashtag #EqualGame.

Not only that, but they doubled down on their stance when asked what the point in posting that was.

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International Football Clubs are calling UEFA out.

SD Logroñés, a Spanish football club from Division B, tweeted, “Dear, @UEFA: in Spain we say: ‘Arreglao,’" which means "fix it" in Spanish.

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FC Barcelona, another Spanish football club showed their support of the LGBT+ community as well, tweeting, “Pride and respect,” along with a picture of their club logo with a rainbow backdrop.

FC Bayern, a football club in Germany — also the club Neuer plays for — released a statement from their president Herbert Heiner.

“We would have liked it if the Allianz Arena could have been lit up in rainbow colors on Wednesday,” he said in the statement. “Open-mindedness and tolerance are fundamental values that our society and FC Bayern stand for.”

It’s worth noting that the Allianz Arena is also the arena that FC Bayern plays in.

With Hungary still under investigation by UEFA for racist and homophobic allegations as well as the public backlash, fans are saying Mayor Reiter should light the stadium in rainbow colors in protest anyway.

There’s also chatter that games should no longer be held in Budapest, in rebellion against Hungary’s history of racism and homophobia.

If UEFA was to make a move, it would be within the next day since the game starts tomorrow, but fans are doubtful that they’ll take back their word.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice and relationships.