THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN SPORTS AND INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW
Presented by the Middle East Committee of the American Bar Association International Law Section
Thursday, May 4 | 4:30pm – 6:00pm | Sheraton Times Square
Nothing brings people together quite like sports. Traditionally viewed as a unifying force in the global community, sport has long been a significant source of “soft power” for nations, who use “sports diplomacy” as a potent tool in their international relations.
Today, however, “Sportswashing” is rapidly becoming the hottest topic in Business & Human Rights, Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”), and Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) — particularly as shareholders, stakeholders, and human rights activists become more and more sensitized and sophisticated vis-à-vis the phenomenon.
Major sporting events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup show how countries and corporations may seek to use sporting events to “sportswash” their image and cultivate goodwill, diverting the eyes of the world from their odious records on human rights and the rule of law.
Whether you are a rabid ESPN fan, or whether your firm’s roster of clients includes governments, sports teams, and sports figures, or media companies — or, more likely, any of the many major corporate sponsors and/or advertisers associated with sports figures, sports teams, and sporting events — “sportswashing” definitely should be on your radar screen.
Join us for this dynamic, “TV talk show”-style exploration of the fascinating interplay between sports and international human rights.
“Sportswashing” is rapidly becoming the hottest topic in Business & Human Rights, Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”), and Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”), particularly as shareholders, stakeholders, and human rights activists become more and more sensitized and sophisticated vis-à-vis the phenomenon.
By hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, for example, China sought to “sportswash” its gross violations of the human rights of China’s Muslim Uighur minority, who have been forced into concentration camps — though, thanks to the pressure exerted by international human rights activists around the world, China’s efforts failed spectacularly, with foreign government leaders, media, spectators, corporate sponsors, advertisers, and even athletes calling out the country and nicknaming the games the “Genocide Olympics.”
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is yet another prime example. By hosting the World Cup, Qatar sought to establish itself as a formidable “player” in the region and in the international community, with its image cleansed, its “soft power” fortified, and its geopolitical position strengthened. But the festivities were overshadowed by damning, high- profile revelations of the country’s pervasive violations of women’s rights, widespread LGBTQ rights abuses, and — perhaps most chilling — utter disregard for the lives of the migrant workers who make up 90% of the country’s population and whose labor powers the economy.
An estimated 6500 migrant workers – from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere – have died in Qatar over the past two decades. An untold number perished while working directly on World Cup construction projects, with little acknowledgement and nocompensation whatsoever for their families.
Saudi Arabia is yet another country often accused of “sportswashing” based on the billions of dollars that it is investing in sports in an effort to cast the Kingdom in a favorable light and divert the eyes of the world away from abuses such as its role in the murder/dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, its support for the war in Yemen, and its torture and imprisonment of Saudi human rights activists like iconic women’s rights advocate Loujain al Hathloul. Champion pro golfer Phil Mickelson – who has forfeited millions of dollars in goodwill and sponsorships by Callaway, KPMG, and Amstel Light – is just one of the latest athletes to have his personal “brand” severely tarnished due to his association with the “sportswashing” Saudi regime.
These are but a few examples. The list of sports – and “sportswashing” countries – goes on and on.
Join some of the biggest names in the field for what promises to be a fascinating, engaging, and highly informative introduction to the “Wide World of ‘Sportswashing”’!
Ernesto J. Alvarado, Allen & Overy LLP, Washington, DC
Rachel Chambers, Professor of Business Law, University of Connecticut School of Business, Storrs, CT
Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sport & Geopolitical Economy, SKEMA Business School; Author/Editor, inter alia, “International Cases in The Business of Sport, The Business of the FIFA World Cup, & The Future of Motorsports: Business, Politics and Society” (Twitter: @Prof_Chadwick) Paris, France
Hon. Delissa A. Ridgway, U.S. Court of International Trade, New York, New York
Daniel R. Cooper, Cooper & Kurz Stamford, CT
International Human Rights Committee
U.N. & International Organizations Committee
International Anti-Corruption Committee
International Anti-Money Laundering Committee
International Contracts Committee
International Criminal Law Committee
International Arbitration Committee
Women’s Interest Network
Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Network
Seasoned Lawyers Interest Network
Latin America & Caribbean Committee
Central/East Asia & China Committee
Northeast Asia, Japan and Korea Committee
South Asia/Oceania and India Committee
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