The current Wold Cup (soccer) for men in Qatar feels like the clearest example of everything wrong with the world. From its origins in a bribery scandal, to the gruesome deaths of migrant workers to make it happen, to the international support for the pageant despite being held in a nation with an abhorrent human rights record, everything about it is wretched and appalling. Meanwhile, i Fortnitenow you can dress up your character in soccer gear with Pride colors.
As Eurogamer reports, Fortnite has long featured official football (look, I’m British, I can’t call it “football” every time, I get hurt in the street) skins, from Premier League team colors to official tie-in kits from UEFA events. But this time, during what is the biggest sporting event in the world, there are no official or sponsored ties at all. It seems that Epic has the sense to avoid directly associating itself with this most problematic tournament. But you know, still earning.
Called “Let them know,” the football-like uniform skins are accompanied by a bunch of in-game tasks to unlock rewards, the usual Fortnite deal. What’s interesting is that Epic never explicitly says what they mean by “Let them know.” The closest they come is to say: “Let them know! Specifically, let the squad know what you’re up to,” which clears up absolutely nothing. Some assume it’s a suggestion that players could, you know, use the colors available to dress their characters in Pride-supporting outfits, as a response to the horrific treatment of gay people in Qatar. In fact, the main promotional image for the event (above) looks eerily like the bisexual flag.
Subtle as it is, the apparent ability to make a statement Qatar’s persecution of LGBTQ people people seems like a nice gesture. But when one considers the scale of the Cup’s human cost, the corruption that led to it, and the fact that any symbols of Priding is banned from the games themselves, it’s hard not to think that it might have been better for Epic to not try to profit from the event at all.
In 2020, it was New York Times reported that the US Department of Justice had directly stated that FIFA officials (those who chose which nation will host the World Cup) were bribed by Qatar. The choice of a desert with no football fields to host the event was considered deeply odd when it was announced in 2010, and the reasons why became increasingly clear over the next decade.
Of course, Qatar then had to actually build enough stadiums, hotels and related infrastructure to host the event, and to do this, it has been reported they relied on poorly paid migrant workers, who worked in squalid and often deadly conditions.
Then there is Qatar itself, a nation where homosexuality is illegal, is punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonmentor even the death penalty. This is reported by Human Rights Watch that LGBTQ people arrested for the “crime” of their identity are often brutally beaten in custody, with reports of this happening as recently as September this year. Meanwhile, HRW states that women’s rights is “severely restricted”, with laws preventing women from being able to make decisions about their own lives.
It is into this country that every qualifying nation happily sends its teams to play in the World Cup, while companies like Adidas, Crypto.com, McDonald’s Visa and Coca-Cola are sponsoring the event.
So you can see why Epic might not want to be directly associated with this monstrous debacle. Although at the same time you still earn along with a bunch of football related events and outfits.