The BBC has admitted asking an “inappropriate” question about sexuality to the Moroccan captain at the Women’s World Cup.
A journalist – reported to be from the BBC’s World Service – has faced criticism after quizzing Ghizlane Chebbak on whether there were any gay players in her squad, with same-sex relationships illegal in the north African country.
The unnamed male reporter asked the 32-year-old footballer during a news conference in Melbourne: “In Morocco it’s illegal to have a gay relationship, do you have any gay players in your squad and what’s life like for them in Morocco?”
A FIFA media representative warned the journalist: “Sorry this is a very political question so we will just stick to questions related to football please.”
But the reporter responded: “No, no, it’s not political, it’s about people, it’s nothing to do with politics, please let her answer.”
In a statement sent to Sky News, the BBC said: “We recognise that the question was inappropriate. We had no intention to cause any harm or distress.”
Chebbak appeared visibly uncomfortable following the question, with critics suggesting the “unethical” question was “completely out of line” and “poses safety concerns” to the players.
Sports journalist Shireen Ahmed, who was present at the conference, said the BBC reporter was “completely out of line”.
“Harm reduction matters and posing the question to the captain or coach was unnecessary,” she tweeted.
“The question was waived off by a FIFA media officer moderating but it shouldn’t have been asked.”
She added: “Asking a player about her teammates and whether they are gay and how it affects them when you know it is not permissible is bizarre and out of line.
“The captain cannot out players or comment on policy [because] it could be dangerous for them, too.”
A social media channel called SHE Scores Bangers, which covers women’s football content and shared a video of the conference, also criticised the BBC journalist’s approach.
“The uneducated assumption feeding into the stereotype ‘all women’s football players are gay’ this journalist expressed is mind-boggling and should be refuted from the sport,” the channel said.
“Show me a clip where the Moroccan men’s national team got asked such at their World Cup – there isn’t.
“‘Do you have any gay players in your squad?’ is a question I’m dying to know what answer he expected for and if there was a single further thought on the impact this can have, just a single thought.”
The channel also hit out at the BBC journalist’s response that the question was “about people”, adding: “The ones you were going to endanger?”