David Beckham’s “status as a gay icon will be shredded” if the former England captain and Manchester United star continues in his role as a Qatar World Cup ambassador said British comedian Joe Lycett on Sunday.
In a video posted on Twitter, Lycett, a British comedian who describes himself as queer on his website, said he would donate £10,000 ($11,000) to charities supporting “queer people in football” or put the money through the shredder along with “Beckham’s reputation as a gay icon” if the former footballer did not cut ties with Qatar.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy has recently told CNN that the 2022 World Cup will “be an inclusive, safe tournament” and said “everyone is welcome, regardless of race, background, religion, gender, orientation or nationality.”
World football governing body FIFA referred CNN to the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy for all comment relating to Lycett’s criticism of Beckham and Qatar.
Beckham, contacted by CNN through his representatives, declined to comment on the criticism around his ambassadorship.
CNN contacted the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy for comment but has not received a response.
“Homosexuality is illegal, punishable by imprisonment and, if you’re Muslim, possibly even death,” said Lycett in an Instagram post.
A report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) published in October documented alleged cases of beatings and sexual harassment. According to victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch, security forces allegedly forced transgender women to attend conversion therapy sessions at a behavioral healthcare center sponsored by the government.
“Qatari authorities need to end impunity for violence against LGBT people. The world is watching,” said Rasha Younes of Human Rights Watch.
A Qatari official told CNN that the HRW allegations “contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false.”
Lycett, however, is taking aim at Beckham.
“You’re the first Premiership footballer to do shoots with gay magazines like Attitude, to speak openly about your gay fans,” Lycett said.
“Now, it’s 2022. And you signed a reported £10 million ($11.7 million) deal with Qatar to be their ambassador during the FIFA World Cup.”
Under Qatari law, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison.
Lycett said that Beckham has “always talked about the power of football as a force for good” and encouraged him to use his platform to campaign for LGBTQ rights.
“If you do not, by midday next Sunday [November 20, 2022], I will throw this money into a shredder just before the opening ceremony of the World Cup and stream it live on a website I’ve registered called benderslikebeckham.com.”
Lycett is not the first person or group to criticize Beckham for his ambassadorship. Adelaide United player Josh Cavallo, who came out as gay last year, told CNN Sport he would like to see Beckham using his platform to support the LGBTQ community instead of promoting the Qatari government.
“If someone like David Beckham with his platform does get around us and becomes an ally that we are wanting him to be, it is really helpful.
“If he could take that next step and show what he means to the LGBTQ community, that would be fantastic.”
HRW has also recently highlighted “arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment” of LGBTQ people in Qatar.
“There are just a few days until the World Cup kickoff, but that’s plenty of time for the Qatari government to end ill-treatment of LGBT people,” HRW said in a November press release.
“Qatari authorities should publicly condemn violence against LGBT people and formally recognize that having same-sex sexual attraction is not a mental health condition.”