Letter: No action against Jamaican football boss for anti-gay comments. Why?

Michael Ricketts, president of the Jamaica Football Federation. (Photo courtesy of Caribbean National Weekly)
Michael Ricketts, president of the Jamaica Football Federation. (Photo courtesy of Caribbean National Weekly)

Letter to the editor

Dear Concerned Citizens:

I am Herbert A. Nelson, Jr., Board Chairman, Crime & Security Committee, Institute of Caribbean Studies in Washington DC. The battle to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), intersex, and asexual (or allies) – (LGBTQIA) members of our society is an everyday struggle. In all areas of the world, we have seen recognition of people’s rights and hard-fought respect. Yet, we witness massive protests whenever authority defies or disrespects those rights.

The LGBTQIA Community and concerned citizens for change are asking when the disrespect in Jamaica will cease, especially amongst the people in authority. We do realize that you can make a difference by taking small steps as indicated below to diminish some of the frustration generated by detractors of written policies.

Logo of the Institute of Caribbean Studies
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FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, is in a powerful position to eradicate homophobia and hatred in this sporting arena. On the surface and in the public relations space, given the optics and importance of the World Cup 2022 scheduled in Qatar, FIFA is championing the cause of the LGBTQIA Community. FIFA has developed a strict code of conduct and implemented tough sanctions on homophobia.   

They have Qatar, a country where “being gay” is illegal and punishable by up to 3 years in prison and the possibility of the death penalty—going against its policies and allowing LGBTQ displays and the Rainbow Flag flying in their stadiums.

However, behind the scenes and below the surface lies a different practice – implicitly or complicity, a picture is being painted, and its effect is the same as is in Jamaica.

Most notably, Michael Ricketts, President of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), a member organization of CONCACAF [the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football] and FIFA, was found guilty of defamation and homophobia on January 12, 2022, by The Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica Civil Division. 

The verdict came as a result of Claim No. 2017 HCV 01940, in which a claimant accused Mr. Ricketts of homophobia and defamation because of a public interview on a nationally syndicated radio station Hitz 92FM in May 2017. Mr. Ricketts was ordered to pay restitution of JMD$9 million [See also Radio Jamaica. plus aggravated damages and issue a public apology via the Sunday edition of the national newspaper and the same radio station where the defamation was committed, Hitz 92FM. To date, Mr. Ricketts has refused to comply with the court’s order and has remained resolute in his position.

Surprisingly, neither the JFF, CONCACAF, nor FIFA has taken a position or held Mr Ricketts in contempt. He is also on the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) executive board and is accountable for his actions. Instead, he has been left to conduct business as usual. The lack of action by the board, the confederation, and the governing body is of significant concern. It contradicts its written policies, procedures, and punishment toward fans and athletes.

On June 18, 2021, FIFA punished Mexico for fans’ repeated use of homophobic slurs. FIFA’s disciplinary committee fined the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) about USD$65,000 for the behavior of fans at two matches at the Olympic men’s qualifying tournament in March in Guadalajara.

As a result, to create a strong deterrent, In January 2022, the Mexican Football Federation announced that Mexican soccer fans who chant anti-gay slurs would be banned from matches for five years.

In 2020, the United Soccer League suspended Phoenix Rising and Jamaican National Team player Junior Flemmings for directing an anti-gay slur at Colin Martin. He was the only openly gay player in the league. This caused the player and his teammates to walk off the field.

Phoenix Rising team officials placed Flemmings on administrative leave for the remainder of his contract with the team, which concluded on November 30, 2020. Flemmings’ contract with the team was not renewed. 

So, why is Mr. Ricketts’ treatment any different?

Why has he not been suspended by the JFF, CONCACAF, or FIFA?

It is difficult to fathom the behavior of Mr. Ricketts and the lack of action by the JFF. We see further rewards with a new sponsorship by mega-brand Adidas. Adidas, like many other Brands, in their corporate prognostications, stake claims of equity and inclusion and should not attach their names to any leadership or organizations that condone homophobia and incite hatred towards a marginalized group.

Change begins with organizations implementing proper practices and holding those who violate the rules responsible when they trample upon the civil liberties of others. Action by FIFA will impact other sporting arenas used to display hateful propaganda. Therefore, we are asking you to apply some resources towards ensuring that the JFF, CONCACAF, and FIFA reflect the inclusion of all people within the LGBTQIA community and take a deep look into this troubling matter.

Thank you in advance for hearing our concerns. I look forward to your response.

Regards,

Herbert A. Nelson, Jr., MA, BSc.
Chair, Crime and Security Committee, Institute of Caribbean Studies
Washington, DC
Email: h[email protected]

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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  1. get these anti-gay bigots out of leadership positions NOW! Civility and respect should be prerequisites for any leadership position whether it is in sports or politics.

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