UEFA Cites Its Politically 'Neutral' Stance in Denying Munich Request to Light Stadium With Rainbow

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) denied a request from Munich, the host city of the European Championships, to light up its stadium in rainbow colors in support of the LGBT community.

In a statement Tuesday, the UEFA explained that while the intention of the request by Munich's city council was to foster diversity and inclusion, the organization is also "politically and religiously neutral."

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter sent the application on behalf of the city council, in a response to a law passed by the Hungarian national parliament last week that prohibits sharing any content containing homosexuality or sex reassignment to minors. Reiter characterized the UEFA's decision as "shameful," and said that it was "very disappointing" the German soccer federation failed to give the city's proposal additional backing.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Munich Stadium Lit Up in Rainbow Colors
MUNICH, GERMANY - JULY 11: A general view outside of the soccer stadium Allianz Arena which is illuminated in rainbow colours for Christopher Street Day (CSD) on July 11, 2020 in Munich, Germany. Christopher Street Day is an annual European LGBT celebration and demonstration held in various cities across Europe for the rights of LGBT people and against discrimination and exclusion. Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

German soccer clubs are banding together to display rainbow colors during the country's match against Hungary at the European Championship after UEFA rejected Munich's plan to do the same.

Stadiums in Berlin, Wolfsburg, Augsburg, Frankfurt and Cologne will light up their venues during Wednesday's final group game in Munich.

Federation spokesman Jens Grittner suggested Monday that it might be an option to display the colors in the days after Hungary's visit. Munich will host a quarterfinal match at Euro 2020 on July 2.

"A laughable counter-proposal," Reiter said. "I don't know what the point of this proposal is supposed to be."

Reiter said he expects to raise rainbow flags over city hall and have a wind turbine near the stadium and the city's Olympic Tower illuminated in rainbow colors, too.

"We in Munich certainly won't let ourselves be discouraged from sending a clear signal to Hungary and the world," Reiter said.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó criticized the German position on Monday.

"In Hungary we have passed a law to protect Hungarian children, and now in Western Europe they are griping about it," Szijjártó said in Luxembourg. "They want to express this by including politics in a sporting event, which has nothing to do with the passing of national laws."

UEFA said it believes "that discrimination can only be fought in close collaboration with others" and it proposed that Munich illuminates the stadium with the rainbow colors on June 28 for Christopher Street Day or between July 3-9 for the Christopher Street Day week in the city.

The body said these dates "align better with existing events."

But the delayed action undermines Munich's planned protest against what it calls "the homophobic and transphobic legislation of the Hungarian government."

Hungary's National Assembly approved the bill against sharing LGBT content with minors in a 157-1 vote last week, when one independent lawmaker voted against it and all other opposition parties boycotted the voting session in protest.

"This legislation represents a new mark in the invisibility and disenfranchisement of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) and adds to the systematic restriction of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms that have been practiced for years in Hungary," the Munich council said in its application, which had cross-party support.

Michael Roth, Germany's minister for Europe, said UEFA's decision was "bitter, but expected" and he called for fans attending the game to show their colors in the stadium.

"Set an example for diversity and solidarity with LGBTI people in Hungary and all over Europe! LGBTI rights are human rights!" Roth wrote on Twitter.

Bavarian governor Markus Söder also regretted UEFA's decision.

"It would have been a very good sign of tolerance and freedom. We have to stand up against exclusion and discrimination," Söder said in a post on Twitter.

Plans for other stadiums, where the tournament is not being played, to be illuminated with rainbow colors quickly gathered support on Tuesday.

"If Munich is not allowed on Wednesday, then the other stadiums in the country will have to show their colors. Come now, league colleagues!" Eintracht Frankfurt board spokesman Axel Hellmann said on Twitter.

Cologne was the first to follow, with the other cities soon joining.

The Berliner Zeitung newspaper reported that the capital city's senate was also considering illuminating the Brandenburg Gate with the rainbow colors.

Berlin Deputy Mayor Ramona Pop accused UEFA of hypocrisy.

"Always happy to be lauded for actions against homophobia and racism, but not allowing a rainbow stadium as a symbol of tolerance and diversity at Euro 2020. What a poor showing, UEFA!" Pop said.

On Sunday, UEFA gave the go-ahead for Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to continue wearing a captain's armband with the rainbow colors at the tournament.

"What does the rainbow stand for?" German government spokesman Steffen Seibert asked on Monday. "It stands for how we want to live: With respect for each other, without the discrimination that has long excluded minorities. And surely the vast majority of people can relate to that."

Germany Goalkeeper Manual Neuer Rainbow
Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer walks on the pitch during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group F match between Portugal and Germany at the Football Arena stadium in Munich, Germany, Saturday, June 19, 2021. Philip Guelland/Associated Press

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