Britain’s BBC apologized Tuesday after one of its reporters asked the captain of the Morocco women’s soccer team if any of her soccer teammates are lesbians.
«In Morocco it is illegal to have a homosexual relationship,» the journalist asked the player Ghizlane Chebbak at a press conference on Sunday. «Do you have any gay players on your team? How is life for them in Morocco?»
Morocco is one of at least 67 countries where same-sex intimacy is criminalized, according to Human Rights Watch. Moroccans who break the law could face between six months and three years in prison, according to the international advocacy group.
Chebbak grimaced and removed his headset in response to the question, before turning to his trainer and laughing. An official from FIFA, the international soccer governing body, intervened before Chebbak could respond, calling the question «political» and instructing reporters to «stick to soccer-related questions.»
«No, it’s not politics,» the reporter replied. “It’s about people; It has nothing to do with politics. Please let her answer the question.”
The moderator ignored the reporter’s comments and allowed one last question from another reporter before ending the press conference.
On Tuesday, a BBC spokesperson called the question «inappropriate» and said the news organization «did not intend to cause harm or distress».
The Moroccan Football Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other reporters who were in the room during the press conference condemned the BBC reporter’s question on social media.
“The reporter was completely out of line,” said Shireen Ahmed, a reporter for CBS Sports. tweeted on Saturday. “Damage reduction is important and raising the question to the captain or coach was unnecessary. The question was dismissed by a moderating FIFA press officer, but it shouldn’t have been asked.»
The news conference incident was not the first time the British broadcaster, the country’s oldest and the world’s largest, has been on the sidelines regarding LGBTQ issues in recent years.
The BBC faced widespread criticism from LGBTQ advocates for publishing an article in 2021 titled «Some trans women are pressuring us to have sex», which critics said painted all trans people as sexual predators. And just last month, the station faced criticism from some activists after reissuing guidelines discouraging their journalists from attending LGBTQ Pride events that could be considered “open” protests to avoid accusations of bias.
The BBC reporter’s question to the Morocco team captain comes as a record number of openly LGBTQ players are competing in this year’s Women’s World Cup tournament. According to the latest count by the sports website LGBTQ Outsports, at least 94 athletes out will compete this year, almost 13% of the 736 players in the tournament. Australia have the most away players, with 10, and Brazil and Ireland are close behind, with nine players each, according to Outsports. No Moroccan player is included in the Outsports list of openly LGBTQ players.
Morocco’s match on Monday marked the first time a team from an Arab and North African nation has played in the Women’s World Cup. The team lost to Germany 6-0.