Several teams' captains had planned to wear a rainbow armband before FIFA threatened penalties for those who did. (Sebastian Gollnow/Getty Images)

At the 2022 men’s World Cup, armbands have become a signifier of the greater issues that plague the sport of soccer.

This year’s World Cup kicked off Sunday in Qatar, which has been accused of human rights violations as well as the persecution of LGBTQ+ people. The host nation has been accused of bribing FIFA to win the privilege of hosting the event.

Several national teams’ captains had planned to wear rainbow armbands throughout the competition in a show of support for the LGBTQ+ community. Seven captains had confirmed their plans to wear the armbands, including England’s Harry Kane.

And then FIFA stepped in.

The international governing body for soccer threatened players with yellow cards if they wore the armbands, so the players backed down from the gesture. But that didn’t stop former England women’s national team star and current pundit Alex Scott from wearing the armband on the sideline as she joined the BBC broadcast.

Wales women’s national team star and OL Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock took to Twitter to call out FIFA and to implore the captains to wear the armbands.

“It was never a huge message, but it was a message,” she wrote. “As the weeks have gone on, FIFA are getting defensive, hostile & have realized the noise surrounding this WC is not going anywhere.”

She continued to lambast FIFA in a later tweet.

“More I think about this armband situation, I am disgusted by FIFA,” she wrote. “Imagine threatening players: ‘Stand up for others and I’ll book you.’”

In another powerful response, Bernd Neuendorf, the president of the German FA, accused FIFA of an “unprecedented demonstration of power.”

He also said that the timing of the reprimand seemed “deliberate,” as the European nations had informed FIFA of their plans “months ago” without hearing back but the threat of yellow cards came just before matches started Monday.

“FIFA have prevented a statement for human rights and diversity. These are values that they pledge to uphold in their own statues,” he said. “That’s more than frustrating, and unprecedented. In our view, this is a show of power from FIFA.

“They told us we were facing sporting sanctions (for wearing the armband), a few hours before Harry Kane and [Dutch captain] Virgil Van Dijk were to step on the pitch. We didn’t want this conflict being fought on the backs of the players and expose players to this risk. They can take our arm band but we will continue to express the values we stand for.”