Embattled footballer Jordan Henderson has lastly damaged his silence on his controversial resolution to swap the English Premier League for the Saudi Professional League. The England midfielder and former Liverpool captain introduced his transfer to Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia again in July. However he has waited till now to elucidate his resolution.
In a toe-curling interview with the Athletic, Henderson is at pains to defend his standing as an ‘LGBTQ+ ally’ – a repute he has studiously constructed up lately with numerous acts of ostentatious virtue-signalling, each on-line and off.
As everybody is aware of, Saudi Arabia might be fairly illiberal of homosexual folks. Homosexuality is against the law that may entice imprisonment and corporal punishment. And so Henderson, fairly understandably, stands accused of rank hypocrisy – of abandoning his ‘LGBT activism’ for big dollops of Saudi Arabian money.
Whereas Henderson denies reviews that he shall be incomes £700,000 per week on the market, it’ll undoubtedly nonetheless be an eye-watering sum, as Saudi Arabia makes an attempt to construct itself an elite soccer league by throwing huge quantities of money at huge gamers and managers.
Henderson’s makes an attempt to justify the transfer have been torturous. He argues within the Athletic that he has gone ‘above and past’ prior to now for the LGBT neighborhood, and so he ought to actually be lower some slack. ‘I’ve worn the laces. I’ve placed on the armband’, he says, referring to the rainbow paraphernalia that has now turn out to be ubiquitous at sporting fixtures within the West. ‘All I ever tried to do was assist’, he says. Transfer over Harvey Milk. Pipe down Peter Tatchell. A brand new defender of homosexual rights is right here to place these pretenders within the shade.
Extra absurd nonetheless, Henderson even tries to current his well-remunerated Saudi Arabian transfer as itself an act of LGBT allyship. ‘Having somebody with [my] views and values in Saudi Arabia is simply a optimistic factor’, he claims, regardless that he admits that he’s not planning to say or do something to advance the gay-rights trigger at Al-Ettifaq. ‘I wouldn’t disrespect the faith and tradition in Saudi Arabia’, he concedes. It’s as if the persecuted gays and lesbians of Saudi Arabia ought to be glad about Henderson’s mere presence.
What the Henderson debacle reveals is the self-love of sporting virtue-signalling. Gamers and pundits like to flaunt their fealty to modern causes at dwelling, the place there isn’t any private or skilled penalty for doing so. What counts as ‘activism’ usually quantities to little greater than symbolic gestures – carrying the laces and the armbands, as Henderson places it – or mouthing bland, PR-edited platitudes. (As Henderson as soon as stated of his resolution to put on rainbow laces in assist of LGBT causes: ‘I couldn’t be stronger in my perception that the values we’re celebrating – unity, togetherness, inclusion – couldn’t be extra in line with these of our membership and our metropolis.’) That is an train in ethical preening, not a radical demand for change.
What’s extra, this sporting virtue-signalling is aimed not at unsettling the highly effective, however at lecturing soccer followers, who’re contemptuously presumed to be unreconstructed bigots. Henderson’s stunts lately weren’t an try to alter the regulation or problem a homophobic state. The large battles for homosexual rights had been gained a long time in the past within the West. Somewhat, they had been an try and instil within the supposedly incorrigible plebs the right strategy to act and assume.
In fact Henderson is beneath no obligation to boycott Saudi Arabia. Regardless of all his claims on the contrary, he’s an expert footballer, not a human-rights activist. Nor ought to he be anticipated to problem its theocratic rule when he’s there. The sight of Henderson hectoring a Saudi sheikh on issues of sexual liberation would certainly be ridiculous. However it could be no extra ridiculous than Premier League footballers endlessly lecturing followers right here at dwelling. And it could be a hell of rather a lot braver, too.
Jordan Henderson affords a cautionary story to all the opposite knee-taking, armband-wearing sportsmen and girls on the market. Those that dwell by vapid virtue-signalling can fairly simply die by it, too.
Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Observe him on Twitter: @FraserMyers
To investigate about republishing spiked’s content material, a proper to answer or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.