The Other FIFA Scandal: Slave Labor

Photo: MARWAN NAAMANI/Getty Images.
Soccer is the world's most popular sport, and fans everywhere were shocked Wednesday when the U.S. Department of Justice announced it had arrested 14 high-ranking soccer officials on corruption charges. The widespread bribery and greed within the sport is astonishing (one former official kept a $6,000-per-month apartment just for his cats), but even $150 million worth of bribes can't compare to the human rights violations happening right now in Qatar, where the 2022 World Cup is set to take place. Hundreds of thousands of men are trapped in the country, forced to work grueling and dangerous jobs building the facilities where teams will play and fans will gather. These migrant laborors are slaves; they live in filthy camps, have been cut off from their families, and their passports have been confiscated. More than 4,000 workers are expected to die before the tournament begins, according to a report from an international labor-rights group. Many of the workers came to the Middle East from Nepal. According to the Guardian, after the devastating earthquake killed thousands of people, workers were not allowed to go home to bury loved ones. As if that weren't horrific enough, the Qatari government has worked furiously to keep reporters away from the labor camps and work sites; earlier this month, reporters from the BBC were arrested for chronicling the conditions there. While some major brand sponsors of the World Cup have already pulled their support, others are ignoring public calls to withdraw. The Internet has reimagined logos of companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's, incorporating whips and chains into the iconic imagery. According to the New York Times, Wednesday's arrests are only the beginning of a much larger investigation into the massive human rights violations happening in the name of entertainment.

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