British Comedian Joe Lycett appeared to have shredded almost $12,000 (£10,000) of his own money in protest of world-famous former soccer player David Beckham’s decision to remain an ambassador for the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosted in Qatar.
Lycett said that Beckham was a “gay icon,” having appeared on the cover of LGBTQ+ magazines, and praised his belief in using “the power of football as a force for good.”
But he condemned Beckham’s ambassadorship, citing Qatar’s poor human rights record and LGBTQ+ policies.
“Qatar is one of the worst places in the world to be gay,” he said, emphasizing that homosexuality is still illegal in the country and can result in imprisonment or even a death sentence.
Lycett issued Beckham an ultimatum on Twitter last week: the former footballer would give up his $12 million (£10 million) deal, and Lycett would donate the money to LGBTQ+ charities, or he would keep it and Lycett would run the money through a shredder instead, while also destroying Beckham’s “gay icon” status.
As the deadline passed on Sunday with no response from Beckham or his team, Lycett live streamed himself, on a website he created called benderslikebeckham, destroying the cash while wearing a rainbow tulle outfit.
The stunt received mixed reactions, including horror, with some calling out his use of the money saying that it should have gone to a better cause. To their relief, Lycett admitted on Monday that while the cash that went into the shredder was real, the pieces that came out were not.
“I would never destroy real money, I would never be so irresponsible,” Lycett said in a new video, revealing that he did in fact donate £10,000 to LGBTQ+ charities before he even posted the ultimatum and that he never expected a response.
“It was an empty threat, designed to get people talking… In many ways it was like your deal with Qatar, David. Total bullshit from the start,” Lycett concluded, before shredding a real cover of Attitude magazine from 2002 featuring Beckham, which was the first gay magazine cover with a Premier League soccer player.
Qatar World Cup sparks outrage
Lycett isn’t the only one to call out Beckham — last year the soccer player was urged to speak out on Qatar’s human rights record by Amnesty International.
But Beckham is also not the only celebrity continuing his World Cup involvement, despite widespread outrage and a boycott from LGBTQ+ fans. The Black Eyed Peas, Colombian singer J Balvin, Robbie Williams and BTS’s Jung Kook are all still set to perform.
Meanwhile, many companies sponsoring the event, including those who have publicly expressed support for LGBTQ+ rights, are still involved due to the sheer scale of advertising opportunities, including Adidas, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.
Organizers have promised that no one will face discrimination during the World Cup, but Qatar doubled down on its approach to homosexuality only two weeks before the world cup was due to begin when a top ambassador said it was “damage in the mind” during an interview with a German broadcaster. And on Monday, seven World Cup teams announced they would drop the “One Love” rainbow armbands, worn in solidarity with LGBTQ+ rights, after warnings from FIFA, the tournament’s organizing body, that players wearing the armbands might face “sporting sanctions.”
In October, Human Rights Watch found that Qatari security forces had “arbitrarily arrested” LGBTQ+ people and “subjected them to ill treatment in detention.”
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