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Jordan Henderson defends ‘positive’ Saudi Arabia move amidst LGBTQ+ fan backlash

"All I can say around that is that I’m sorry that they feel like that," Henderson responded.

By Emily Maskell

two images of Jordan Henderson playing football, one with a captain band and another with a rainbow captain band.
Jordan Henderson breaks his silence. (Image: Wikicommons and Twitter/@Ettifaq_EN/Getty)

Ex-Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson has spoken out after widespread criticism from fans who accused him of “sportswashing.”

The 33-year-old completed a £12 million move to join Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ettifaq FC team in July.

In a new interview, he shared that his intention was “never, ever to hurt anyone.”

The footballer has been accused of undermining his previous public support of the LGBTQ+ community.

In Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death.

Yet, previously, Henderson has been public with his support of the Rainbow Laces campaign and ending LGBT discrimination in football.

“sorry isn’t good enough… actions speak louder than words.”

Liverpool LGBT fan group Kop Outs responded to Henderson’s new interview by accusing him of sportwashing.

“No acceptance by Henderson of his role in sportswashing, trying to disguise the disgusting Saudi human rights record,” the fan account tweeted on Tuesday (5 September).

“This sounds more like an attempt to rebuild his ‘brand’, sorry isn’t good enough… actions speak louder than words.”

One individual replied to the Kop Outs tweet asking whether Henderson reached out to the organisation to speak.

“Not one word,” Kop Outs replied.

Speaking to The Athletic, Henderson said: “I can understand the frustration. I can understand the anger. I get it.

“All I can say around that is that I’m sorry that they feel like that. My intention was never, ever to hurt anyone. My intention has always been to help causes and communities where I felt like they have asked for my help.”

Henderson explained that his decision to join the team was an attempt to make a change.

“I felt as though, by myself not going, we can all bury our heads in the sand and criticise different cultures and different countries from afar.”

He added: “But then nothing’s going to happen. Nothing’s going to change.”

“I think people know what my views and values were before I left and still do now,” he also shared. “I think having someone with those views and values in Saudi Arabia is only a positive thing.”