Billie Jean King urges World Cup participants to be 'influencers' amid human rights concerns in Qatar

By Sports Desk November 02, 2022

Tennis great Billie Jean King believes it is "important" for people to go to the World Cup in Qatar and "be an influencer" amid ongoing concerns over the country's human rights record.   FIFA's decision to allow Qatar to host the World Cup has faced persistent criticism, with concerns cited over the human rights standards in a country where same-sex relationships are prohibited.   England captain Harry Kane will be among eight skippers to wear a distinctive heart-adorned armband at the tournament, raising awareness for the OneLove campaign against discrimination   King has been a regular promoter of equality, helping to secure equal prize money at tennis' four majors, and outlined her support for Qatar, where she would not be against hosting the WTA's Billie Jean Cup.   "I probably would be because, first of all, the WTA went there years ago," the 78-year-old responded when asked if she would allow her tournament's finals to be held by the World Cup hosts.   "I get a lot of different people coming to me saying 'why would you play there the way they treat women?' But personally, I think it's important to show up and be an influencer.   "I think it's delicate, no question. But I think it's important to go if you get the opportunity and everything else fits too, not just go there for money or whatever."

Qatar faced more scrutiny after an Amnesty International report in 2021 alleged thousands of migrant workers were exploited, with the country's government denying those claims but acknowledging problems.

King is no stranger to the Middle East either, having supported the WTA Finals being played in Doha, where she said the tournament created opportunities for female tennis players.

"We were there four or five years and I think it helped," the American added. "When I went there I did a clinic for the kids but only for the girls.

"Somebody was left-handed, which is sinister to them, and this mother was saying she hoped her left-handed daughter could one day become a champion and get rid of that stigma.

"These are the kind of discussions you can have when you're physically there. So I'm big on going actually, even if I know it's a fine line of how you do it."

The World Cup starts in 18 days when Qatar face Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor.

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