Why Denmark’s ‘Protest’ shirts look like normal t-shirts

AL RAYYAN, Qatar – Denmark’s national soccer teams have spent the last six years being outfitted by Hummel in distinctive kits with chevrons on the shoulders. But the Danish men showed up at the 2022 World Cup, taking the field here on Tuesday in what looks like a plain red shirt and doubles as a protest.

It features the Denmark and Hummel logos, as well as the signature chevrons, but all are “toned down” because, as Hummel said after the kits’ release, “we don’t want to be visible during a tournament that has claimed the lives of thousands of people. ”

His statement related to the controversial claim that working conditions in Qatar contributed to the deaths of migrants who were building infrastructure related to the World Cup. Denmark’s all-black third kit, Hummel said, is the “color of mourning”.

The kits, Hummel said, were also “inspired” by the 1992 Denmark team that won the European Championship. But the most notable aspect of their “double message” was what Hummel called “a protest against Qatar and its human rights record”. In addition to exploiting migrant workers, Qatar has been criticized for suppressing freedom of expression, intolerance of homosexuality and curtailing women’s rights.

However, the jerseys sparked accusations of performative marketing and hypocrisy. They are made in China and Hummel will benefit from this – and indirectly from the World Cup in Qatar.

The Supreme Committee, Qatar’s organizing committee for the World Cup, responded with a statement of its own shortly after the kit’s launch, in which it “argues[d] Hummel’s claim that this tournament “killed thousands of people” and trumped Qatar’s labor law reform.

“We wholeheartedly refuse to downplay our genuine commitment to protecting the health and safety of the 30,000 workers who built stadiums for the FIFA World Cup and other tournament projects,” the Supreme Committee said in its statement.

The Danish Football Association DBU did not mention the protest in its announcement of the kits. Instead, it focused on “the 30th anniversary of the biggest triumph in Danish football”, Euro 1992. Hummel said the “kit was created in close cooperation with DBU”. But it seems the century-old sportswear company – which is headquartered in Denmark and not kitting out other World Cup teams in 2022 – is the main voice behind the so-called “protest kits”.

“We fully support the Danish national team,” said Hummel in his statement. “But that’s not the same as supporting Qatar as a host country.”

AL RAYYAN, QATAR – NOVEMBER 22: Christian Eriksen of Denmark looks on during the Group D match of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 between Denmark and Tunisia at Education City Stadium on November 22, 2022 in Al Rayyan, Qatar.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Christian Eriksen wears Denmark’s ‘Protest’ jersey during the team’s World Cup match against Tunisia at Education City Stadium on November 22, 2022 in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Qatar: Migrant deaths disproportionate to population

Hummel’s claim of “thousands of lives” – which mirrors many similar claims made by Western fans and media – appears to stem from misleading and misinterpreted media reports.

The key claim in the most consequential report, a 2021 Guardian article whose headline and cover page were changed a week after publication, read: “More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have since moved to Qatar died won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago.” (The article later noted that there were 37 deaths “directly related to the construction of World Cup stadiums.”)

None of this is disputed. In fact, according to the Qatari government, over 17,000 migrants of all nationalities have died in Qatar since 2010.

It is disputed how many of these 17,000+ deaths were linked to the World Cup, how many were the result of unsafe working conditions, and whether 17,000 deaths in a population of around 2 million over an 11-year period is even unusual.

According to Qatar government statistics, less than half of the country’s migrants work in construction; 68% are classified as “unskilled” or “restrictedly qualified”. Only a fraction of them were employed at World Cup sites. The Supreme Committee says there have been three fatal accidents at these sites; and three dozen other workers died while employed by them. However, critics argue that the vast majority of Qatar’s infrastructure, which has grown over the past decade, was built for the World Cup. and that the human cost of the tournament should account for these fatalities.

The Qatar government, on the other hand, has argued that the thousands of deaths are in line with expectations based on population-wide death rates. This claim has not been independently confirmed nor definitively disproved.

The real problem, experts say, is that more than half of the deaths in question are effectively unexplained. “That,” said Nick McGeehan, a labor rights investigator and attorney at FairSquare, “is the scandal.”

AL RAYYAN, QATAR – NOVEMBER 22: Denmark national football team poses for a team photo during the Group D match of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 between Denmark and Tunisia at Education City Stadium on November 22, 2022 in Al Rayyan, Qatar.  (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

Denmark national football team poses for a team photo during the Group D match of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 between Denmark and Tunisia at Education City Stadium on November 22, 2022 in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

‘OYour vision to change the world through sport’

The focus on deaths, some advocates believe, has distracted from undeniable violations of migrant rights in Qatar. And it has certainly made Denmark’s kits more polarizing.

The international debate surrounding the kits prompted Hummel to publish an FAQ on its website to address some of the criticisms. When asked about the Qatar pushback, Hummel said, “The most important thing for us is that human rights have been abused in relation to migrant workers in Qatar.”

It acknowledged that China, where “a large part” of Hummel’s production is based, is “a high-risk country in terms of human rights”. But it said it conducts regular audits of suppliers and that there is one Hummel employee who is “constantly” at the factory where the Denmark kits are made.

It also disproved the allegation that the jersey was a stunt. “It is not a commercial decision to articulate our opinion on the World Cup in Qatar,” wrote Hummel. “It’s more about our vision to change the world through sport.”

The company has said it works with Amnesty International, a human rights organization that regularly investigates and criticizes Qatar. Hummel promised in the FAQ that “a percentage” of jersey sales would be donated to Amnesty. The company’s owner said separately that 1% of the proceeds from all online sales will go to Amnesty.

Hummel also addressed the rift in messaging between himself and the DBU and the apparent “resignation” of the Danish FA.

“Both parties have agreed on the direction and message of the jerseys,” Hummel wrote. “Regardless of the choice of words or language, the third black jersey in particular should serve as a pause for thought and time to reflect on the importance of human rights and compliance with them.

“The use of the word ‘mourning’ is also Hummel’s own phrasing,” the company clarified, “but other than that, there are no disagreements between Hummel and DBU regarding the testimony and communication.”



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