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David Beckham: The LGBT Rights Record of the World Cup Ambassador

The former english football player's LGBTQ+ allyship is a mixed bag.

By Emily Maskell

Words: Attitude staff; pictures: Wiki

As the 00s epitome of the modern man, David Beckham became one of the few straight male public figures to enjoy bona fide ‘gay icon’ status. But times have changed. In hindsight, was Goldenballs’ gold star for honorary gayness issued prematurely? 

June 1998 – Photographed looking cute AF in a sarong when off-duty at the France World Cup, Dave causes a media frenzy. Victoria, then Adams, surely had a hand in the sartorial styling, but the grace with which her future husband withstood press ridicule — plenty of it with a homophobic slant — did not go unnoticed by the gays. “It was an outrage,” the star told The Telegraph 20 years later. “Today, no one bats an eyelid if a guy wears a sarong in the street.”

June 2002 – A bleached-blond Becks becomes the first Premiership footballer to cover Attitude, telling us: “It shouldn’t matter what people are and it never has done to me. It’s just not an issue.” An amazing moment.

September 2007 – Ex-England footballer Graham Le Saux, who is straight but was a target of anti-gay abuse throughout his career, claims David once called him an anti-gay slur. A Beckham spokesperson denies the allegation, with the statement’s forceful language betraying the seriousness with which the matter was handled: “David would never say such a thing. […] We refute these assertions completely.”

November 2009 – Victoria tells Attitude guest editor Will Young: “I’m a big fan of the magazine, and so is David.” And we’re big fans of VB and DB, still. But with the latter, it gets complicated…

January 2019 – In an echo of sarong-gate, David wears green eyeshadow on the cover of Love magazine. We’re pained to praise him for it because, some 50 years since Bowie’s high-femme alien breakout, who really cares? Well, plenty of people, judging by the number of headlines it generated.

November 2021 – With a decision that arguably wipes out 20-plus years of allyship, Beckham signs a £10 million deal to become an ambassador for the 2022 World Cup-hosting Qatar — despite the country’s myriad human rights abuses, including the death penalty for Muslims caught having gay sex.


Despite intense criticism, David still hasn’t exited his Qatari ambassador role. Unless he assembles all five Spice Girls in the viewing box in rainbow colours by November (him in violet, and World Cup CEO Nasser Al-Khater in indigo, please), we’re unsure of where we stand.

The Attitude July/August issue is out now.