The convenient allyship of Jordan Henderson: a tale of rainbow laces left behind
- Jordan Henderson, once a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, opts for a culturally ‘sensitive’ stance at his new club, Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia.
- The video announcing Henderson’s signing intentionally greyed out the rainbow armband he once wore as Liverpool’s captain.
- Henderson’s decision underscores the scarcity of strong LGBTQ+ ally voices within football.
When is an ally not an ally?
That’s a question many are pondering after Jordan Henderson, the former Liverpool captain, packed away his Rainbow Laces in favour of a more culturally ‘sensitive’ stance in his new club Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia.
For context, let’s revisit October of last year, when Henderson told Liverpool’s matchday programme, “I have regularly worn rainbow laces and today will be no exception because this kind of visible support can only have a positive impact.”
He even evangelised the “powerful message that football is for everyone and the more of us who can take this message back into our homes, workplaces and daily lives the better.”
Fast forward less than a year, and we find Henderson’s allyship comes with caveats.
No longer in England but in a country with laws criminalising homosexuality, he told The Athletic: “I wouldn’t rule that out. But at the same time, what I wouldn’t do is disrespect the religion and culture in Saudi Arabia. If we’re all saying everybody can be who they want to be and everybody is inclusive, then we’ll have to respect that.”
Respect, it appears, is a one-way street for Henderson.
Convenient allyship: the illusion of support
It’s easy to wear a badge of allyship when you’re surrounded by a chorus of agreement.
When the chips are down, however, Henderson’s ‘values’ seem to take a back seat to his new surroundings.
For many in the LGBTQ+ community, the act of being an ally shouldn’t be something that you can simply pack away in your luggage when flying to a different country.
Henderson added, “But if the opportunity comes where I can do it and it doesn’t, then yeah, because that’s my values.”
So, the question is, do your values change based on geographical coordinates? Or is it the amount of money being fed into your already fat bank account?
Henderson is reportedly earning around £350,000-per-week, although there have been other reports it will be as high as £700,000. A week.
Erasing the rainbow
To add further insult to the community he once supported, the video announcing his signing on Al-Ettifaq’s social media channels seemed to intentionally grey out the rainbow armband he wore as Liverpool’s skipper.
“I didn’t know anything about it until it was out,” he said, adding that if wearing the armband “disrespects their religion, then that’s not right either.”
Where are the voices?
When one of the few apparent allies chooses convenience over courage, it serves as a bleak reminder of how far we have yet to go and how quickly those happy to claim ‘allyship’ will abandon it as soon as it gets a bit inconvenient for them.