Group Says Miami Dolphins Should Not Name Stadium After Qatar Airways, Which Has "Blood on Its Hands"

Last year, Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins, teamed up with the government of Qatar to buy a stake in Formula 1 racing. Now, there are reports that the Middle Eastern country's state-owned airline, Qatar Airways, could get naming rights to New Miami Stadium (formerly Sun Life Stadium), where the Fins play.

Representatives from the Washington-based nonprofit group Alliance for Workers Against Repression Everywhere (AWARE) say they are calling on Ross and the NFL to nix any such deal because Qatar has a record of human rights abuses.

"The Dolphins are going to name a stadium after people who are dealing in human slavery?" asked Mike Lux, chair of AWARE's advisory board. "That's appalling!" 

According to AWARE, "Every week, approximately 29 migrant workers will die – total deaths are estimated to be 4,000 – building the 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer facilities in Doha because of deplorable working conditions. As of last year, the International Trade Union Confederation estimated that as many as 1,200 workers had died already."

The group says — and media have reported —  that Qatar Airways "mandates that its employees live in company accommodations where their personal lives are monitored and requires adherence to company-mandated curfews...  Qatar Airways workers in Doha are also banned from marrying without the company's permission, and women must adhere to strict grooming policies, including weight limits." 

AWARE says that all workers living under the Qatari dictatorship are prohibited from unionizing or protesting and that some are forced into 100-hour-plus workweeks. "Workers often complain they are denied wages and are forced to live in unsanitary housing. Further, the LGBT community in Qatar lacks any protection, as being homosexual is illegal in the state."

In a statement, AWARE advised fans, "Don't fly with governments and airlines that have blood on their hands, and demand better representation for your city and your team."

Lux says he's a longtime progressive activist working on labor issues. "I worked in the Clinton White House on those kinds of issues. I was a special assistant to the president. Worker rights and consumer rights were a large part of what I did there. Over the years, it just seemed like the world is getting smaller and labor rights in this country are very much tied [to what happens around the globe]. If our workers are competing with slave labor or exploited labor in other countries, that's bad for our workers."  

The U.S. government, he says, "doesn't pay much attention to" unsafe labor conditions in the Middle East, "whether because of complicated politics or oil politics. When [abuses happen] in Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Qatar, our government doesn't tend to do much about it."  

Lux said his group forwarded a news release to the team, "but we have not gotten any response yet."

A call and email to a Dolphins spokesperson was not returned yesterday afternoon. 

A request for comment to Qatar Airways sent through its website was also not returned.

Update, 2:30 p.m.: Qatar Airways has responded with the following statement: 

Qatar Airways Group employs 40,000 people from 163 nations, speaking more than 160 languages. We are truly a multi-cultural organisation, based in Doha.

We are an employer of choice, because we hire staff members from diverse backgrounds, and offer competitive salary and excellent benefits. Indeed, we offer our employees based in Doha comprehensive health care services as well as housing benefits. For the most part, airline workers in the United States do not enjoy equivalent benefits.

Qatar Airways has enjoyed continued growth and success in recruiting in Qatar, the United States and elsewhere. Qatar Airways brings important cultural and economic benefits to the communities it serves.

Qatar Airways is bound by the laws of the countries it serves, and it tailors its employment practices accordingly.

Qatar Airways strives to be an employer of choice. Qatar Airways believes that recent attacks leveled against it are based on a lack of understanding of labor practices outside the United States, and a desire to slow the growth of a carrier that has been lauded for both for its top quality product and service. 

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