Rainbow-themed badge adorns U.S. training facility at World Cup in Qatar

QATAR - The U.S. men's World Cup squad are showing their support for the LGBTQ community by way of a rainbow-themed team logo inside their training facility and media workroom.

Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar which is hosting the tournament starting on Sunday.

The design features seven rainbow-colored vertical stripes below "USA" in dark blue letters and is part of the "Be the Change" initiative the team adopted in 2020 with the goal of inspiring action on social justice issues.

"When we are on the world stage and when we are in a venue like Qatar, it is important to bring awareness to these issues and that is what 'Be the Change' is about," U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter told a news conference on Monday. "It is not just stateside that we want to bring attention to social issues, it is also abroad. We recognize that Qatar has made strides and there has been a ton of progress but there's some work still to do."

Organizers of the World Cup, which is the first to be held in a Middle Eastern nation, say that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or background, is welcome, while also warning against public displays of affection. Soccer players have raised concerns over the rights of fans traveling to the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 World Cup, especially LGBTQ individuals and women, whom rights groups say Qatari laws discriminate against.

"We are a group who believes in inclusivity and we will continue to project that message going forward," said U.S. goalkeeper Sean Johnson. "We have chatted and continue to have discussions as we lead into the games. We have leaned on the message of 'Be the Change.' That is something that we have been proud of and continue to work towards, be impactful with ourselves, our presence and our platform, and we will continue to be so here in Qatar."

The rainbow badge, which will not be worn by the team during World Cup games, has been routinely displayed by U.S. Soccer no matter the occasion as a way to promote a spirit of inclusivity.

"Our rainbow badge has an important and consistent role in the identity of U.S. Soccer," U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe said in an email to Reuters. "As part of our approach for any match or event, we include rainbow branding to support and embrace the LGBTQ community, as well as to promote a spirit of inclusiveness and welcoming to all fans across the globe. As a result, locations that we will manage and operate at the FIFA World Cup, such as the team hotel, media areas and parties, will feature both traditional and rainbow U.S. Soccer branding."

(Reporting by Iain Axon; Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Ed Osmond)

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