Amid claims that Qatar is using “modern day slavery” to construct infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup, ESPN writer Phil Ball went on an “all-expenses paid trip” to the country and wrote an overwhelmingly positive story about it.
Ball refers to the criticism of the Qatar World Cup as a “witch hunt” perpetuated by an “anti-Qatari brigade” of “Western journalists who have never stepped foot in the country.”
The article — which was criticised as a piece of propaganda immediately after it was published — was taken down by ESPN early this morning.
ESPNFC (the company’s soccer site) apologized, tweeting, “Carefully re-evaluated our recent Qatar story and decided to remove it. It did not meet our journalistic standards. We apologise.”
A reader was able to make a PDF of the article before it was taken down, and we’ve embedded it at the bottom of this post.
Ball’s central argument is that all complaints against the Qatar World Cup are bogus. Some of his points:
- He says the space-age stadium cooling system that the Qataris promise will protect players and fans from the oppressive summer heat “will work,” although he doesn’t offer an explanation of how.
- He argues that the workers rights controversy is not as bad as it sounds because the people in power “have the power and influence to fix it almost overnight.”
- He says he lack of alcohol isn’t a big deal because “a month of water and fruit juice might even improve some folks’ health.”
The crucial sentence: “Meanwhile, it might be a good idea to get off Qatar’s back and try to consider the interesting things that will come out of this venture.”
It’s certainly a controversial and journalistically dubious article, but it’s still surprising that ESPN took it down entirely. They had to know beforehand that publishing an article about how human rights abuses are overstated and everything in Qatar will be fine would get slammed.
But apparently they were unprepared for the backlash.
Here’s the entire article:
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