Monday, July 15, 2024

Opinion | Ted Leonsis should skip the sale

Opinion | Ted Leonsis should skip the sale

The July 8 editorial “Will D.C. lead the league in ‘sportswashing’?” rightly called out Ted Leonsis on his reported intention to sell a 5 percent share of his company Monumental Sports to the Qatari sovereign wealth fund. The sale would signal his complicity in Qatar’s mission to divert attention from its abysmal human rights record, including abuses against migrant workers, women and LGBTQ+ people, and would contradict Mr. Leonsis’s claimed mantle of “inclusivity,” particularly of queer people.

This is playing out in parallel with a controversy raging in the National Hockey League (and other U.S. professional sports leagues) over Pride nights. This past season, a handful of players balked at welcoming LGBTQ+ fans by refusing to wear Pride-themed jerseys during pregame warm-ups. The NHL rolled back its recognition of queer fans and players — just as they find themselves increasingly vulnerable to right-wing schemes to criminalize, dehumanize and strip them of their rights.

Mr. Leonsis could use his money, power and position to exercise leadership worthy of his loyal fan base. He could work to achieve not only aspirational but also real inclusivity within his franchises and the NHL. However, if Mr. Leonsis chooses to enable Qatar in its sportswashing of human rights abuses, including the repression of LGBTQ+ people, he leaves himself no moral ground to stand on.

We need leaders who empower the forces of good. Taking a stand for basic human rights seems like the very least a privileged U.S. citizen who owns three major sports franchises and who is worth more than $2 billion can do. Mr. Leonsis should take one for the team. He should forgo the sale and follow up by engaging the NHL on the issue of LGBTQ+ recognition.

Leslie Spitz-Edson, Falls Church

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