Since three of Liverpool’s players are likely to end up playing in the Saudi Pro League next season, it makes sense that the topic of sportswashing has been on the minds of Liverpool fans. It also makes sense that they would want the opinions of important Liverpool representatives.
Former defender and vice-captain Jamie Carragher is one of the most respected football player-turned-pundits in England, so it’s no surprise that he felt he needed to address this topic. Writing in a column for the Telegraph, Carragher shared his opinions on the subject.
“Since Steven Gerrard moved to the Saudi Pro League and offered Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson the chance to follow him, I have been asked so many questions about their decision you would think I was joining them,” Carragher began.
Though the rest of the column glosses over that detail, it is somehow getting less attention that it’s perhaps Liverpool’s greatest legend of all time, Steven Gerrard, who recruited Henderson and is grabbing his own payday as well.
However, the brunt of the criticism has been levied at Henderson, due to his previous advocacy for marginalized groups.
“Henderson has a big problem to deal with because of his previous remarks in support of the LGBTQ+ community,” Carragher said, before admitting, “I fully understand that criticism and it is justified. Jordan was heralded on the back of his speaking out so he has difficult questions to answer, and the critical reaction towards him will have a negative impact moving forward for those communities who cherish support from high profile figures.”
But then he goes on to make a sad but true prediction about the fallout from Henderson’s controversy.
“When other footballers hear the criticism directed at him, they will not say ‘I can’t go to Saudi’. They will be told by their advisors to keep their mouth shut in case they move there in the future, thus avoiding accusations of hypocrisy. That will equate to buying silence — a grave impact of sportswashing.”
Finally, he directs the blame at who is ultimately responsible for allowing nations like Saudi Arabia to get away with this: the football governing bodies.
“This is where FIFA and other sporting bodies have also been open to criticism and should have been stronger. Governing bodies have the power to say countries will not be allowed to host major sporting events unless they meet human rights requirements. You can’t preach inclusive values only to turn a blind eye when the price is right and not expect criticism.”
It’s behind a paywall, but the column is a good read. Carragher doesn’t insult or personally attack any of his former teammates or, in Gerrard’s case, his good friend, but he’s makes a firm case against the choices that they’ve made.