Should We Punish North Korea at World Cup?

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Reports that North Korea lay behind the unprovoked sinking of a South Korean warship (causing the deaths of 46 crew members) provoked questions about how to address the country's belligerence and instability. In an L.A. Times op-ed on Sunday, Paul B. Stares, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, offered one suggestion. His proposed punishment for North Korea: Shame them with the World Cup. He says,

As the largest sporting event on the planet with an estimated 'cumulative' TV viewership of 35 billion to 40 billion — yes, billion –– people, the World Cup offers an unparalleled stage for shaming and further isolating North Korea."

Yet FIFA, the world governing body for all things soccer, prohibits teams from using equipment (including uniforms) to publicize political issues during games. Not to worry, says Stares, "discretionary items are not covered. Thus teams or individual players could wear black armbands or wristbands, perhaps emblazoned with the number 46, to signify solidarity with the bereaved." As the country is playing in the highly publicized "group of death" (a.k.a. the toughest competitive group), its matches are sure to be seen by billions.

Is the field the right place to air a political protest?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.