Netherlands captain Georginio Wijnaldum said he will wear a rainbow captain’s armband and could walk off the pitch if he is racially abused during the Euro 2020 round-of-16 clash with Czech Republic in Budapest on Sunday.
Ahead of the match against France, Hungarian fans marched to the Puskas Arena displaying a banner calling on players to stop taking a knee to protest racism, while images on social media during their clash with Portugal showed banners with “Anti-LMBTQ” on them — the Hungarian abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.
“It is not just against Hungary,” Wijnaldum said. “The armband means a lot because we stand for diversity — one love means everybody is a part of it and everybody should be free to be who they are.
“In our opinion [the right to be yourself] has been encroached upon. As players we have a podium to do whatever we can to help.”
Germany captain Manuel Neuer was the subject of a UEFA investigation for wearing a rainbow armband in support of Gay Pride Month but did not face any action as he was deemed to have been “promoting a good cause.”
The discussion around celebrating Gay Pride at the European Championship has intensified in recent days after UEFA rejected the city of Munich’s request to light the Allianz Stadium in rainbow colours for the visit of Hungary on Wednesday.
UEFA said the request was denied as it was “political,” after a law was recently passed in Hungary which forbids gay people from featuring in educational materials in schools or TV shows for those under 18.
“UEFA should be there to protect the players and make the decision,” Wijnaldum said. “It should not be left to the players.
“Players often get punished for protecting themselves so UEFA needs to take a lead role in this. I have said I don’t really know how I will react in such a situation.
“I thought first that I would walk off the pitch but maybe not now because maybe the opponent will think: ‘Let them [in the crowd] throw racist slurs and they will walk off the pitch.’ It could be the case that I will walk off the pitch but I will speak with the players about it first.”