Jordan Henderson’s Move to Saudi Arabia Raises Questions About Allyship and LGBTQ+ Support

In less than two years, Jordan Henderson went from being hailed as an ally for the LGBTQ+ community to facing criticism and doubt about the sincerity of his support. The Liverpool captain’s decision to join Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia has left many questioning the true extent of his commitment to the values he once professed.

Henderson’s 900-word statement in support of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign seemed heartfelt and genuine at the time. He wrote, “I do believe when you see something that is clearly wrong and makes another human being feel excluded, you should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them.” Those words resonated with fans, particularly LGBTQ+ supporters who saw in him a symbol of hope and acceptance in the world of football.

However, his move to Saudi Arabia, where same-sex sexual activity is illegal, and LGBTQ+ individuals face severe persecution, has cast a shadow over those previous statements. It’s difficult not to view his actions as contradictory and empty, especially when he had the option to choose a club in a country where the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals are respected and protected.

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For supporters like Keith Spooner, who is gay and had his spirits lifted by Henderson’s support through a tweet about the rainbow armband, the disappointment is palpable. He expressed feeling “gutted” and questioned whether Henderson’s past declarations were merely performative gestures.

The desaturation of the rainbow armband in Al-Ettifaq’s promotional video announcing Henderson’s arrival further adds to the skepticism. Was his support for LGBTQ+ rights merely a “tick-box exercise,” as Spooner wonders, or did he genuinely believe in the cause he once championed?

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Henderson has been regarded as one of the more socially conscious footballers, leading discussions on charitable contributions during the Covid-19 pandemic and being shortlisted for a football ally honor at the British LGBT Awards. These actions made his support seem even more significant, making his decision to move to a nation with a history of suppressing women’s rights and persecuting LGBTQ+ individuals even more confounding.

The criticisms from former players like Thomas Hitzlsperger, who expressed feeling deceived, and LGBTQ+ fan groups, who feel let down and disrespected, should not be ignored. There is a genuine sense of betrayal among those who valued Henderson’s support and trusted him as an ally.

Now, as Henderson departs from Liverpool without addressing the concerns raised by his move, many are left wondering if his values have changed or if his previous words were merely empty platitudes. The ball is in Henderson’s court to respond to the questions posed by his fans and critics alike.

It is essential for public figures like Jordan Henderson, especially those who have advocated for social causes, to live up to their words through consistent actions. Allyship is not just about grand statements; it’s about standing by those values even when faced with challenging decisions.

In the future, Henderson should be mindful of the impact his decisions can have on the communities he once supported. If he seeks to reclaim the trust and respect of those who felt empowered by his previous declarations, he must demonstrate a sincere commitment to the causes he once championed. Otherwise, his actions risk being seen as nothing more than empty words, and the message of support he once sent may fade away like a desaturated rainbow armband.

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