Amr Warda is a 25-year-old PAOK and Egyptian national team midfielder. Or rather, he was an Egyptian national team midfielder until Wednesday, when he was permanently expelled from the team over accusations of sexual harassment.
To refer to them as simple accusations, though, would underplay the fact that Warda has a lengthy history of such in both Greece with PAOK and in Portugal with Feirense, where he only lasted three weeks before having his loan there terminated over accusations he harassed multiple teammates’ wives.
As unofficial spokesman for the Egyptian national team as well as Warda’s teammate and a player who has used his platform in the past to promote women’s rights in the MENA region, it was perhaps unsurprising that Mohamed Salah would offer comment on the situation.
That comment was also, perhaps unsurprisingly, a bit of a muddle at best, with the most positive reading that Salah’s loyalties as a teammate in this case and the beliefs he has in the past espoused about women’s rights and roles do not sit together easily.
Women must be treated with the utmost respect. “No” means “no”. Those things are and must remain sacred. I also believe that many who make mistakes can change for the better and shouldn’t be sent straight to the guillotine, which is the easiest way out.— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) June 26, 2019
As a standalone statement unconnected to the Warda situation, one could say it certainly starts out well enough. Women must be treated with the utmost respect and no means no are, after all, straightforward and unequivocal.
The pivot towards a call to give those who can’t wrap their heads around no meaning no a second chance is far less positive, though in another context one might be able to write it off as athletes generally being bad at talking about this sort thing or say that he’s perhaps soft-peddling a message for a resistant audience.
It’s not a general, standalone statement, though. It has a context. And that context is as a reaction to the Warda situation—it is, explicitly, a call to give Warda, a man who has had many, many chances already based on his history of accusations and punishments, another chance.
We need to believe in second chances... we need to guide and educate. Shunning is not the answer.— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) June 26, 2019
Shunning may not be the answer. Second chances can be earned. Yet to many—and rightly so—stating as much centres the discussion on an abuser’s redemption rather than on the person who was abused. It elevates the perpetrator, seeking to give them a second chance rather than focusing on helping their victim.
And, of course, Salah isn’t talking in generalities here. He’s not looking to soft-peddle a message of elevation and inclusion acceptable to those who might be resistant to it—and, to give Salah’s statement its kindest possible reading, to nudge and encourage baby steps in the right direction.
He’s calling to give one particular accused harasser and abuser a second—or third or fourth or fifth more likely—chance. And that’s disappointing from a player who has in the past done his best to use his role to promote women’s rights in the MENA region.
At best, it’s a muddled message. Some of it is, in fact, very good. Some of it very much isn’t. Knowing what motivates the whole of it—another chance for Amr Warda—makes the whole of it rather unpleasant.