World Cup Arm Band Initiative: World Cup Captains Will Be Allowed to Wear Arm Bands Highlighting Social Causes

The announcement comes after FIFA had prohibited them from wearing One Love arm bands, which support the LGBTQ+ community.
world cup arm band England's Mary Earps wore an arm band in support of the LGBTQ community during a preWorld Cup match...
England's Mary Earps wore an arm band in support of the LGBTQ+ community during a pre–World Cup match between England and Portugal in July.Getty

At this summer’s 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which starts on July 20, players will finally get to wear a social issue on their sleeves—well, their arms. FIFA has announced that team captains can choose from eight arm bands representing social causes. Here’s the lineup:

  • Unite for Inclusion – in partnership with UN Human Rights
  • Unite for Indigenous Peoples – in partnership with UN Human Rights
  • Unite for Gender Equality – in partnership with UN Women
  • Unite for Peace – in partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency
  • Unite for Education for All – in partnership with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
  • Unite for Zero Hunger – in partnership with the UN World Food Programme
  • Unite for Ending Violence Against Women – in partnership with UN Women
  • Football is Joy, Peace, Love, Hope & Passion – in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO)

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Within this new official World Cup arm band initiative, team captains can opt to wear one arm band of their choosing throughout the entire tournament or coordinate with the theme of each match; games will feature all of the eight causes, with elements throughout the stadiums tying into the themes. The World Cup arm band options were selected following months of discussions with all the 32 participating countries/teams as well as with United Nations agencies, according to FIFA.

Of course, the concept of FIFA-approved arm bands actually arose from some controversial recent happenings in the soccer world. FIFA—which has historically taken a tough stance against players wearing political, religious, or personal messages and symbols during high-profile tournaments—has preemptively prohibited women’s team captains at the upcoming World Cup from wearing rainbow One Love arm bands supporting the LGBTQ+ community, as many had said they planned to do. Launched in the Netherlands in 2020 and then adopted by other European nations and beyond, the antidiscrimination One Love bands were sported by team captains during the 2022 women’s European championships but then banned right before the men’s World Cup last winter.

England's Leah Williamson wore a One Love arm band during a pre–World Cup match between England and Brazil in April. FIFA has preemptively prohibited the team captains at the upcoming World Cup from wearing One Love arm bands.


That event was held in Qatar, where same-sex relationships are illegal, and team captains were told they’d receive yellow cards if they stepped onto the field with the rainbow bands on their arms. Representing something of a compromise ahead of this month’s Women’s World Cup, the new Unite for Inclusion arm band option does feature rainbow colors, albeit incorporated more subtly into a heart shape against a solid white backdrop.

While the arm band initiative offers a way for soccer players to express themselves on the field, the US team already does that pretty unapologetically (see: Alex Morgan’s iconic tea-sip troll of Team England). “This group is so resilient, so tough, has such a sense of humor, is just so badass,” cocaptain Megan Rapinoe said when the USWNT won the last World Cup. “There’s just nothing that can faze this group. We’re chillin’, we’re tea sippin’. We got pink hair, purple hair. We have tattoos, dreadlocks. We got white girls and black girls and everything in between. We got straight girls and gay girls. And I couldn’t be more proud.”

No word yet on which arm bands the USWNT might choose—they’re busy tournament-prepping in California—but we wouldn’t be surprised if they opted for the gender-equality theme, given that they famously took US Soccer to court over gender-based pay disparities and ultimately won. (In her retirement, star Abby Wambach has dedicated her life to continuing to fight gender discrimination.) But with a lineup that spans generations and is the most racially diverse team in USWNT history, there’s undoubtedly a wide array of causes our favorite girl gang wants to stand up for. Whatever arm bands they wear, they’ve got a great shot at bringing home a fifth World Cup title for the U.S.

Petra Guglielmetti is a health, wellness, and beauty journalist who taps into a broad network of experts to write in-depth service articles for leading publications, including Glamour, Health, Real Simple, and Parents.

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