A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.
with research by Caroline Anders
A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.
Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas.
Sports and politics have run together since both existed. Think of Rome’s Colosseum, where successive emperors staged games to delight, to entertain, to remind everyone who had the power and the money — and to pacify the public with the “circus” in “bread and circuses.”
Or think of the 1966 World Cup, boycotted by … all of Africa. Or, 40 years later, the protest movement in Germany against Iran being able to compete in the World Cup of 2006, because of the anti-Semitic pronouncements by its president at the time, hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But this World Cup is shaping up to be a unique environment — not just because it’s being played in the Middle Eastern monarchy of Qatar (a relative, though free-spending, newcomer to soccer) and now rather than summer, when it would be too hot to play in the host nation.
Yes, Qatar spent hundreds of billions to showcase its wealth and influence and raise its global profile by hosting the World Cup, the world’s most-watched athletic competition. And it now faces scrutiny of alleged abuses of migrant workers and intolerance of LGBTQI+ identities.
But there’s more to the politics of this World Cup than “sportswashing” Qatar’s image or Doha fending off foreign criticisms with the help of FIFA, international soccer’s governing body.
For one thing, the most high-profile political demonstration thus far has come from the Iranian men’s national soccer players. Team Melli, as they are known, stayed mute while Iran’s national anthem played Monday before their match against England — protesting their own government.
My colleagues Kareem Fahim and Miriam Berger reported how that silence was “widely seen as an acknowledgment of — or even a show of solidarity with — a popular uprising unfolding at home.”
“The appearance of Team Melli, as the Iranian squad is known, is being closely watched, and not just for how it performs in the stadiums in Qatar. During widespread unrest in Iran that began in September with the death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody, Iranian sports figures — including revered current and former players for the national soccer team — have assumed a central role,” my colleagues wrote.
“As anti-government protesters have looked to the soccer players to support the protest movement, which has faced a withering and deadly crackdown by the government, Iran’s leaders have tried to keep the team’s players from speaking out, hoping to use sports as a distraction from the uprising, rather than a rallying call, analysts say.”
Iran’s national broadcaster did not show the moment, my colleagues reported. And note this line from their piece: “Iranian authorities and the intelligence agents traveling with the team clearly want them to stay silent.”
And silent they stayed on Monday. But on Sunday, Iran team captain Ehsan Hajsafi told a news conference the squad was with the protesters.
“They should know that we are with them. And we support them. And we sympathize with them regarding the conditions,” Reuters quoted Hajsafi as saying.
That hasn’t been the only political dimension. Plans by some teams to show public support for LGBTQI+ people — thereby implicitly criticizing the host nation — appear to have been quashed, my colleagues Leo Sands, Cindy Boren and Adam Taylor reported.
“Soccer teams representing seven European nations at the World Cup announced Monday that their captains won’t wear LGBTQ armbands in Qatar after FIFA, which organizes the tournament, said players sporting the bands would be penalized,” they wrote.
“The captains of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland had intended to wear the OneLove rainbow armband to promote diversity and inclusion at the World Cup.”
FIFA threatened sanctions that could have included yellow cards — two of those warnings in the same match mean expulsion and potentially other punishments. Fines are one thing. Potentially pushing out a national team’s biggest star(s) are apparently another.
That drew criticism from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Qatar for the opening of the tournament:
DOHA — Blinken slams FIFA’s decision to punish World Cup soccer players with yellow cards if they wear armbands in support of diversity and inclusion. “No one on a football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team."
The U.S. men’s national team had previously announced they would feature a rainbow crest in their logo, Andrew Beaton and Joshua Robinson of the Wall Street Journal had reported a week ago.
“The team said it would not wear the crest on the field, but planned to display it in U.S. soccer-controlled areas in Qatar, such as fan parties. Pictures of the crest show that the stripes, which are all typically red, are multicolored,” they reported.
The team also hosted some migrant workers who played a role in building the World Cup infrastructure.
World Cup heroes are usually the stars who score goals. This year, they could include those who make points.
“After months of failed legal challenges, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) appeared Tuesday before a special grand jury investigating efforts by former president Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia, the latest high-profile witness in a probe that is believed to be nearing a conclusion,” Holly Bailey and Matthew Brown report.
“Soccer fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusivity, have said they were refused entry into World Cup stadiums and confronted by members of the public to remove the emblem, despite assurances from FIFA, soccer’s governing body, that visitors would be allowed to freely express their identities during the tournament in Qatar,” Leo Sands reports.
“Musk has stoked the culture-war issues that helped inspire him to purchase the company in the first place. A fierce advocate for the right ‘to speak freely within the bounds of the law,’ Musk has moved rapidly — at times erratically — to undermine a regime built over a decade to define dangerous language on the site and protect vulnerable communities, replacing it with his own more impulsive style of ad hoc decision-making,” Cat Zakrzewski, Faiz Siddiqui and Joseph Menn report.
“Years before he allegedly walked into a Colorado LGBTQ bar with an assault-style rifle, the man now known as Anderson Lee Aldrich had a different name, and a tumultuous past,” Joby Warrick, Robert Klemko, Razzan Nakhlawi, Alice Crites and Cate Brown report.
“Whether the events of Aldrich’s childhood had any bearing on Saturday’s horrific violence is unknown. But Aldrich’s earlier existence as Nicholas Brink, reported for the first time, offers possible answers to several key mysteries surrounding the suspected gunman. Public records and databases were oddly silent about Aldrich for the first two decades of his life.”
More: Army veteran recounts subduing gunman at Colorado LGBTQ club
“The designation from the Justice Department’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program means [Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood’s] family will receive a lump-sum payment. The precise amount was not immediately clear, but it will be in line with what relatives of other federal law enforcement officers killed while performing their duties have received,” Peter Hermann reports.
“Under the new district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, the prosecutors have returned to the long-running investigation’s original focus: a hush-money payment to a porn star who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump,” the New York Times’s Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum report.
“During an all-hands meeting with Twitter employees [Monday], Musk said that the company is done with layoffs and actively recruiting for roles in engineering and sales and that employees are encouraged to make referrals, according to two people who attended and a partial recording obtained by The Verge. His comments were made the same day that an unspecified wave of cuts hit Twitter’s sales department, which has lost almost all of its senior leadership since Musk took over,” the Verge’s Alex Heath reports.
“Failure to secure a seditious conspiracy conviction could spell trouble for another high-profile trial beginning next month of former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio and other leaders of that extremist group. The Justice Department’s Jan. 6 probe has also expanded beyond those who attacked the Capitol to focus on others linked to Trump’s efforts to overturn the election,” the Associated Press’s Lindsay Whitehurst and Alanna Durkin Richer report.
“In the evolutionary chess match between the coronavirus and humans, scientists’ next move can’t come soon enough for the millions of Americans relying on treatments known as monoclonal antibodies. These lab-made therapies are rapidly losing their healing power, forcing researchers around the world to devise new antibodies that are both more potent and more resistant to new variants,” Mark Johnson reports.
“With Republicans narrowly taking control of the House, and Donald Trump announcing another presidential bid, President Joe Biden and aides are moving with speed to counter an anticipated barrage of right-wing attacks,” Politico’s Christopher Cadelago reports.
“For months, White House officials have been laying plans to prepare for congressional probes and possible impeachment fights. They’ve been coordinating with a long list of department officials and bringing on attack dogs to help them turn back Republican narratives about the administration.”
“Data from a laptop that the lawyer for a Delaware computer repair shop owner says was left by Hunter Biden in 2019 — and which the shop owner later provided to the FBI under subpoena — shows no evidence of tampering or fabrication, according to an independent review commissioned by CBS News,” CBS News’ Catherine Herridge and Graham Kates report.
“For weeks, Russia has struggled to make any territorial advances in Ukraine. Russian troops have retreated from key areas in the east and the south, most recently from the city of Kherson,” Júlia Ledur reports.
“The controversial facial recognition firm hired by the US government during the height of the pandemic is being slammed by members of Congress, who say the company misrepresented how its technology works and downplayed excessive wait times which stopped Americans from collecting unemployment benefits,” the Verge’s Janus Rose reports.
“New evidence shows that ID.me ‘inaccurately overstated its capacity to conduct identity verification services to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and made baseless claims about the amount of federal funds lost to pandemic fraud in an apparent attempt to increase demand for its identity verification services,’ according to a new report from the two U.S. House of Representatives committees overseeing the government’s COVID-19 response.”
“Congressional Republican leaders are on track to steamroll the growing number of conservative lawmakers who want to stop funding Ukraine’s war effort, a move that’s sure to intensify the GOP divide over U.S. support for Kyiv,” Politico’s Andrew Desiderio reports.
“The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who co-led the congressional delegation to the conference, downplayed the impact of neo-isolationists within his party and noted that the Hill’s most powerful GOP lawmakers firmly support additional aid.”
At 5:50 p.m., the Bidens will leave the White House for Joint Base Andrews, where they will fly to Nantucket, Mass. They will arrive in Nantucket at 7:30 p.m.
“Biden appeared to be in jolly spirits Monday, aviator sunglasses on, unleashing yet another torrent of terrible jokes and groanworthy puns. Was there a reference to ‘fowl play’? You bet. Did he promise not to ‘gobble up too much time’? Well, people wouldn’t call him Uncle Joe if he didn’t,” Travis M. Andrews writes.
Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.