Liverpool's LGBTQ+ fan group, Kop Outs, has urged Jordan Henderson to reconsider his imminent move to Saudi Pro League side Al Ettifaq — but the Reds captain has now seemingly been filmed in training with his new club, despite the transfer not yet having been announced.
The 33-year-old midfielder is on the verge of joining the Steven Gerrard-managed team after undergoing initial medical tests but has already been spotted in training. In a video that circulated on Twitter which has now been deleted, Henderson appeared to be shown in a rondo with his new teammates.
Henderson's potential transfer has sparked controversy due to Saudi Arabia's stance on LGBTQ+ rights. In response, Kop Outs has reminded Henderson of his previous commitment to inclusivity and called on the Liverpool captain to stand by his words.
Henderson was granted permission by Reds manager Jürgen Klopp to leave the team's pre-season training camp in Germany before finalizing his move to Saudi Arabia. The England international is expected to be announced as an Al Ettifaq player imminently in a $15m (£12m/€14m) transfer.
The news of his departure has been met with backlash, considering his vocal support for LGBTQ+ rights in football. Same-sex marriage is illegal in Saudi Arabia, highlighting the stark contrast between the country's policies and Henderson's advocacy.
Kop Outs took to social media to address Henderson directly, referencing a meeting between the midfielder and the founder of the fan group, Paul Amann, in August 2021. They said: "When Jordan Henderson met Paul Amann of Kop Outs in August 2021, Jordan said if there's ever anything I can do to help, just ask.
"So the ask is to stand by your words as a professed ally & champion of #LGBT+ rights, of women's rights and of basic human dignity. Don't go to Saudi."
Stonewall, the organization behind the Premier League's Rainbow Laces campaign, also weighed in on the matter. They commended Henderson for using his platform to support LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports, including wearing the Rainbow Laces, but challenged him to continue his advocacy even after finalizing his transfer to Al Ettifaq.
The group's director of external affairs, Robbie de Santos, said last week: “We are grateful to Jordan Henderson for using his platform to stand up for LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports and fitness, including by wearing our Rainbow Laces.
"In the 10 years since our campaign started, public attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people in sport have improved considerably, and this is thanks in no small part to bold allyship from athletes such as Henderson.
"We can’t deny the reality of lives for the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia, and we hope that Henderson continues his work to build towards a world where sport is everybody's game."
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