Study examines Qatar World Cup controversy and boycott – press room

November 18, 2022

Human rights activists are stepping up their protest efforts with hashtags like #boycottqatar2022

Posted in: Communication and Media, Press Releases, Research, Uncategorized

Screenshot of a graph showing the increase in the volume of posts about the Qatar World Cup boycott.
This chart shows the surge in boycott talks on Twitter surrounding the Qatar World Cup.

Joetta Di Bella and Fred C. Sautter III’s Center for Strategic Communications at Montclair State University’s School of Communication and Media has released a new study that combines social media data and global news on various boycott and protest movements at the dawn of the FIFA World Cup 2022 analyzed this weekend in Qatar.

Why is the World Cup in Qatar controversial?

The study’s highlights show that Qatar’s systematic labor abuses (more than 6,500 migrant workers reportedly died supporting infrastructure and construction work for the tournament) and the country’s blatant discrimination against women and LGBTQ+ people led to online boycott movements of the tournament have led cities to ban public viewing events and teams to activate anti-discrimination campaigns on and off the field.

While the impact on TV ratings, sponsorship sentiment and a renewed and increased focus on human rights will not be fully appreciated until the tournament begins on Sunday and through to its conclusion, the study concludes:

  • A sample of 22,000 tweets with the hashtag #boycottqatar2022 was analyzed from October 15 to November 14, 2022, with 18,412,437 potential impressions reaching more than 43 million people. The vast majority (92%) of those who tweeted about the boycott demonstrated their support for the boycott and human rights activism.
  • The following top-tweeted keywords and hashtags related to the movement were examined: “#boycottqatar2022”, “boycottqatar”, “exploitation”, “construction”, “world cup protest”, “clear message”, “human rights warning”, ” 6500+ people.”
  • Especially on November 5, football fans in Germany (Borussia Dortmund, Hertha, Bayern, Augsburg, Mainz, etc.) began to protest against human rights violations in Qatar. Angered by multiple injustices in Qatar, fans held up huge banners condemning the Gulf state’s exploitative treatment of migrant workers, abuse of the LGBTQ+ community and environmental degradation.
  • During the period under study, a homophobic comment on Twitter by Qatar 2022 ambassador and former Qatar international, Khalid Salman, triggered a second peak in anti-Qatar sentiment.

What does Qatar boycott mean for teams and fans?

Online activism and calls to boycott the tournament have impacted other aspects of the tournament on and off the pitch. For example:

  • The US soccer team will have the rainbow-themed team logo in their training facility and media workroom during the World Cup to support the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Some major cities in France, including Paris, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Lille and Marseille, have decided not to broadcast the World Cup games publicly on big screens in fan zones.
  • Several European football associations (e.g. England, Germany, France, Netherlands) have opted for their captains to wear rainbow heart armbands as part of an anti-discrimination campaign.
  • Denmark joined the protest by providing a black option for its team jerseys at the World Cup to honor the deaths of migrant workers.

“The decision to award Qatar the World Cup was controversial from the start for many reasons, and the online talks over the past month about boycotting the tournament and various forms of protest confirm those concerns,” said Yi Luo, associate professor at the University School of communication and media.

The Montclair study was conducted by Luo and other faculty members, Jin-A Choi, Stephen Andon, Bond Benton, and Keith Green of the Joetta Di Bella and Fred C. Sautter III Center for Strategic Communication, which provides social media analytics tools and training for the Provides faculty and students for classroom learning and research projects.

The team will also release a separate study ahead of Team USA’s first game on November 21, which will analyze social media chatter about favorite teams, players, brands and topics such as online gambling.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact the Montclair State University Media Relations team.


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