Nothing like wanting to play ball in the Middle East.
For those who don’t follow “international football,” Real Madrid is one of the marquee sports teams in the world. Think of them as the New York Yankees of soccer whose players are megastars and whose brand is known across the globe.
Real Madrid recently announced that it will be altering its logo in the Middle East so as not to upset the cultural sensitivity of people in that region. The complication with Real Madrid’s logo is that it has a Christian cross on it. Real Madrid can be loosely translated in English as Royal Madrid and thus the logo has, since 1941, featured a crown on it with a small cross at the top. Not knowing much about Real Madrid, upon hearing the controversy, I scrambled to the internet to check out the logo and found the cross that is being excommunicated from the logo is so tiny, I’d have an easier time finding Waldo.
My first reaction on hearing about Real Madrid’s decision was surprise. Not surprise that Real Madrid would be removing the cross, but that it hadn’t done so already. After all, even far away from the Middle East the days of when sports teams used nicknames or symbols that have even remote links to Christianity are long gone. When Elon University’s “Fighting Christians” became “The Phoenix” in 2000 for the sake of “diversity,” it was symbolic of the new 21st century where being publicly identified with Christianity in any form means having to say you’re sorry. How much longer before Notre Dame covers up the Touchdown Jesus mural and issues an apology for inflicting the image of a man divisive enough to ask that we love our neighbors as ourselves upon its guests?
In Real Madrid’s case, it appears the motivation for the removal of the cross was cold hard cash. Real Madrid had signed a large sponsorship deal with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the removal announcement came shortly after the deal was signed. Khaled al-Mehri, vice chairman for Marka who will be distributing the merchandise with the cross-less logo, had this to say, “We have to be sensitive towards other parts of the gulf that are quite sensitive to products that hold the cross.” I suspect if the National Bank of Abu Dhabi had thrown in a little more cash, Real Madrid would have been happy to splay the logo with crescents. Ah well, the parable about storing up treasures on earth instead of working for treasures in heaven can wait for another day.
This may seem like a small story, as we have become numb of late to Christian denigration both at home and abroad. The genocide of Christians in the Middle East and other regions of the world don’t even crack the back pages of your daily newspaper or the agenda of any nations, so what’s the big deal, if a cross is removed for the good of commerce and regional good will? Mark it down as yet another dead canary chapter in humanity’s coal mine.
On a daily basis, we are scolded about tolerance, but when it comes to Christianity, tolerance for its practitioners is certainly not in vogue. The Center for Studies on New Religions reported that in 2016, Christianity was the most persecuted religion in the world, with 90,000 Christians killed last year for their beliefs. In America, the leaked emails of John Podesta during the recent Presidential campaign show the contempt in which mainstream Christians are viewed by our political class.
In the 1970s, when Apartheid was the headline of the day, the corporate community debated heavily whether or not to disinvest from South Africa until things changed. Yet today in regions of the world where religious minorities are tortured, killed, enslaved, harassed, and discriminated against, there is no qualm or debate. It is just business as usual.
Real Madrid is a private company and is free to do whatever it pleases with its logo. But it didn’t just remove the cross from its logo. It removed the symbol of Christianity, in order to satisfy its material desires and to appease and endorse a region’s ideology that welcomes religious persecution and blatant discrimination.
Real Madrid’s financial gain is the world’s loss.