Henderson comes out over LGBTQ criticism arguing ‘we can all bury our heads in the sand’  

September 6 – Former Liverpool star Jordan Henderson has defended his move to Saudi Arabian club Al Ettifaq after LGBTQ rights criticism.

The 33-year-old moved to the Saudi Pro League from Liverpool on a three-year deal in July, but his switch to the Arab Kingdom, where homosexuality is a criminal offense and punishable by death, received a backlash after he had previously spoken out in support of LGBTQ rights.

Henderson offered an apology, arguing that nothing will change if no one engages with Saudi Arabia.

In an interview with The Athletic, he said: “I can understand the frustration. I can understand the anger. I get it. All I can say around that is that I’m sorry that they feel like that. My intention was never, ever to hurt anyone.

“Now when I was making the decision, the way that I tried to look at it was I felt as though, by myself not going, we can all bury our heads in the sand and criticise different cultures and different countries from afar. But then nothing’s going to happen. Nothing’s going to change.”

“I do care. I’m not one of these people who goes home, forgets about everything and is just like, I’m fine, my family is fine, just crack on. But at the same time, I knew people can look at it like that and they’re entitled to their opinion, they’re entitled to feel like that. All I can say is that I apologise, I’m sorry that I’ve made them feel that way. But I haven’t changed as a person.”

Al Ettifaq received criticism for appearing to censor Henderson’s support for the LGBTQ movement by greying out his rainbow armband on an image of the player when announcing his signing on social media.

Henderson said that we would still consider wearing rainbow laces. “I wouldn’t rule that out. But at the same time, what I wouldn’t do is disrespect the religion and culture in Saudi Arabia.”

With Saudi Arabia spending unprecedented sums in the transfer market, luring marquee players with colossal contracts to the kingdom, Henderson, who spent 12 seasons at Liverpool, denied money was his motivation but instead felt that he was no longer part of Liverpool’s plans.

“There were a few things that sent alarm bells ringing. I’ve got a very good relationship with Jurgen. He was very honest with me,” said Henderson.

“I won’t go into detail about the conversation because it’s private, but it put me in a position where I knew that I wasn’t going to be playing as much. I knew there were going to be new players coming in my position.”

“People can believe me or not, but in my life and my career, money has never been a motivation. Ever. Don’t get me wrong, when you move, the business deal has to be tight.

“You have to have financials, you have to feel wanted, you have to feel valued. And money is a part of that. But that wasn’t the sole reason. And these possibilities came up before money was even mentioned.”

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