“Quite Painful” Decision By KNVB On Coming Out Day: Onelove Armband Becomes A Personal Choice

The KNVB (Royal Dutch Football Association) chose Coming Out Day to announce that professional clubs can now decide their involvement in the OneLove campaign.

It had been a requirement for the OneLove captain’s armband to be worn during Eredivise games, something which created extensive discussion, but it will now be at the discretion of the individual clubs or players.

Houssin Bezzai, the Programme Manager for Racism and Discrimination at the KNVB, emphasised that the Association remains committed to the OneLove campaign but says the clubs should determine their level of involvement, adding, “I am curious to see how they will handle this.”

This decision has been criticised by Thijs Smeenk, board member of the John Blankenstein Foundation, an organisation dedicated to promoting LGBTQ+ acceptance in sports and All-in & Win project partner. Speaking on the radio program “Langs de Lijn En Omstreken,” Smeenk acknowledge the well-intentioned approach of the KNVB, but he raised concerns that without explicitly being told to participate, clubs may not be fully aware of the issues and as a result support for LGBTQ+ campaigns and awareness may diminish.

COC Netherlands and the Pink Comrades (the LGBTQ+ supporters’ club of Feyenoord), jointly expressed their disappointment with the decision and called for the KNVB to reconsider. They called it “a deeply saddening and incomprehensible choice, which gives the impression that the football association has yielded to its opponents.”

The debate surrounding the OneLove campaign has intensified in recent years, although the campaign encompass all discrimination in football, the LGBTI+ aspect appears to have become especially divisive, with some players refusing to wear the armband. Orkun Kökcü who was captain of Feynoord, cited his religious beliefs as a contributing factor in his decision, and Redouan El Yaakoubi was removed as captain of Excelsior when he could not find agreement with the club on the matter.

Smeenk noted that Eredivisie captains were already wearing rainbow armbands before the campaign’s introduction in 2020, but the initiative received limited attention and attitudes seem to have changed in recent years, which he attributes to more discrimination towards of LGBTI+ identities rather than homosexual relationships.

In response to the criticism, the KNVB clarified that there had already been changes to the campaign, with the focus last year aligning with the International Day Against Racism and Discrimination, “Because you can speak out against any form of discrimination: racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, etc.”

The KNVB has not disclosed how the action will be structured in 2024, as they aim to shift the focus from raising awareness to fostering behavioral change through the “Our Football Is for Everyone” campaign.

Source of this article: NOS.nl, published on Wednesday, October 11th. ‘Vrij pijnlijk’ besluit KNVB op Coming Out Day: OneLove-band wordt eigen keuze (nos.nl)