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For Gary Lineker, a starring role in Qatar’s big show was not an option.

Sure, he had hosted a World Cup draw before. And as a former top scorer in the tournament who now works as a popular television broadcaster he has an ongoing professional relationship with the tournament’s organizer, FIFA. But fronting the glamorous event in Doha last month that set the matchups for this year’s World Cup in Qatar — a hosting choice he has regularly criticized — was not something, Lineker decided, that he could consider.

So in a conversation with FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, Lineker said no.

Lineker’s reluctance to host the draw — which left FIFA scrambling to find a replacement — is only one recent example of the line celebrity athletes and sponsors are having to tread when it comes to the Qatar World Cup, which since its inception has been mired in controversy and complaints about the country’s treatment of migrant workers and the gay community. His decision came as multiple companies, and even the federations of some participating nations, are taking steps to distance their brands from the host country even though they have paid millions of dollars to attach themselves to the world’s most high-profile sporting event.

Qatar has long pushed back on perceptions about the country that it considers inaccurate or at best outdated, attempting to explain that as the physical appearance of the country changed, so have its protections for workers. But examples of abusive conduct and poor treatment stubbornly persist and remain fodder for news media outlets, particularly in Europe, where the Qatar World Cup continues to be a source of protest and a lightning rod of criticism for those that associate with it.


Credit…Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Alarmed, some companies that would have been expected to leverage the biggest event in the most popular sport on earth have instead chosen to step away. For instance, ING Group, a major international financial services and banking group that sponsors the Netherlands and Belgium national teams, has decided not to leverage those relationships during the event. The company said it would not accept any of its ticket allocation for the tournament or engage in any World Cup-related promotion, a spokesman told The New York Times.

“Given the discussion and concerns around the human rights situation of the tournament infrastructure we think it’s inappropriate,” the spokesman said. Instead, ING said, the company will focus its efforts on the women’s European soccer championships to be held in England this summer.

Several other partners of the Dutch and Belgian teams also issued statements outlining their plans to ignore what would in normal circumstances be a major marketing platform. GLS, a parcel service provider that sponsors Belgium’s team, told The Times that while it has backed the Red Devils since 2011 and would continue to do so, it would not take up its ticket allocation for customer promotions or engage in any advertising campaigns in Qatar “because we consider a commercial use of the World Cup 2022 in the context of the human rights situation better not take place.”

Carrefour, however, a French-based supermarket chain with outlets in Qatar that also sponsors the Belgium team, issued a robust response to claims that it too would join the others in what appears to be a collective boycott of the World Cup. “Carrefour and its subsidiaries are not engaged in a boycott of any kind,” the company told The Times in a statement that labeled any claims it would take part “fake news.”

Even some of the competing teams, though, are treading lightly. U.S. Soccer has held internal discussions about messaging it can provide to players for when they face inevitable questions about human rights issues, and Germany’s team wore T-shirts bearing the slogan “human rights” before a World Cup qualifying match last year.

And after Denmark’s team secured its qualification last year, its soccer federation announced that two of its sponsors, the national lottery Danske Spil and a prominent bank, Arbejdernes Landsbank, had agreed to surrender the space they have paid for on the team’s training gear so that it can be replaced by human rights messages during the World Cup. (Arbejdernes Landsbank later ended its sponsorship early, a decision it said was over unrelated issues.)

None of the team’s sponsors, the Danish federation said, would take part in any commercial activities in Qatar “so that participation in the World Cup finals is primarily about sporting participation and not promoting the World Cup organizers’ events.”

Ricardo Fort, a former marketing executive responsible for Coca-Cola’s multi-decade relationship with FIFA, said many companies were calculating the effects of associating with Qatar, but he predicted that most would ultimately choose not to shy away from the tournament. “To me it feels like a localized issue,” Fort said.

Celebrities and individuals would face a tougher choice, he suggested.

“If you are a retired footballer planning to sign a deal in Germany or France et cetera, the chances are you will be more successful not being involved with the event,” Fort said.

Lineker, a former England striker who was the top scorer at the 1986 World Cup, was just the sort of star FIFA and World Cup organizers would have wanted to headline high-profile events like the draw. Lineker had said yes the last time around, taking center stage at the Kremlin for the draw ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

But after doing so he had faced a backlash from some sections of the British news media, and this time, he told Infantino, he had concluded it would be hypocritical for him to headline a ceremony that would in essence kick off an event about which he continues to have misgivings. (Lineker will continue to play a leading role in the BBC’s coverage of the tournament, having decided that reporting on the event is not the same as endorsing it.)


Credit…Carl Recine/Action Images Via Reuters

Credit…Darko Bandic/Associated Press

For others, though, the rich paydays on offer can be too big to turn down. Qatar has for years written some of the biggest sponsorship contracts in sports, and that has only ramped up as the World Cup nears. Its biggest capture to date has been David Beckham, the former England star who like Lineker was present in the hall when Qatar chosen as the host for 2022.

Qatar’s multimillion-dollar agreement with Beckham, now also a sports team owner and investor whose celebrity transcends soccer, extends beyond the World Cup; it is, in many respects, a deal for the former England national team captain to endorse Qatar itself. That has led some people close to Beckham to privately express misgivings about the nature of the arrangement. “It’s a deal to promote and support the nation and what they’re doing,” a person with knowledge of the agreement said in describing it.

Beckham has not publicly spoken about what motivated him to sign with Qatar, where he has been a frequent visitor since agreeing to a deal more than 18 months ago. His spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Beckham has so far avoided press scrutiny at events in Qatar, which have included an event with Afghan refugees; a promotional event for Qatar Airways; and an appearance on a panel at the Doha Forum, a flashy event that brings together business and political elites. He was curiously absent, however, from the World Cup draw.

“There’s so much risk attached to this,” said Tim Crow, a former chief executive of Synergy, a firm that has advised Olympic and World Cup sponsors. “I was kind of surprised he’s decided to position himself with something for which there’s so much risk, particularly for a guy who doesn’t need the money.”

Beckham’s relationship with Qatar may lead to questions for one for his other partners, the sportswear manufacturer Adidas. The company provided few specifics about how it would activate its relationship with Beckham for the Qatar World Cup, saying only that he “is a valued, long-term member of the Adidas family and our partnership will continue as such.”


By: Tariq Panja
Title: As World Cup Nears, Brands Weigh Cost of Teaming With Qatar
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Published Date: Mon, 02 May 2022 12:35:04 +0000

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Baller Awards

Is Megan Thee Stallion a ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ fan? ‘Gojo Thee Stallion,’ explained

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Prior to the 2024 Crunchyroll Anime Awards, some anime fans had no idea that rapper Megan Thee Stallion was an anime enthusiast. But watching her speech as she presented the Anime of the Year Award, there can be no doubt about it: Megan is a weeb.

Personally, I’m Megan Thee Stallion’s newest fan and follower, and I hope I’m not the only one whose heart she unexpectedly won. Despite not being too familiar with her music and her career, the way her personality shone during the ceremony, and everything I’ve found out thereafter, contributed to a feeling of kinship. United by nerdiness, we could say.

Megan has previously cosplayed as other anime characters. One such instance that broke the internet – but not as much as recently – was when she cosplayed My Hero Academia’s pro-hero Mirko. And, objectively, she looked stunning.

But, even though some like myself only found out about her passion for anime recently, the American artist has never truly hidden it, in fact, and admirably, she seems proud of her nerdy side.

Megan Thee Stallion many cosplays
Screengrabs via X/IG

But when she cosplayed a female version of Satoru Gojo from Jujutsu Kaisen – who also won the Crunchyroll award for secondary anime character of the year – the internet went wild as if she had cast Domain Expansion over social media.

Megan Thee Honored One

Megan Thee Stallion is a Gojo fan
Screengrabs via Crunchyroll Anime Awards/theestallion

When she “made it to Japan,” Megan Thee Stallion posted on her social media pictures of herself dressed up as a female Gojo – arguably, the most widely adored character in the series. The combination of the beloved rapper with the beloved S-rank jujutsu sorcerer took the internet by storm, or, shall we say, by Hollow Purple. It escalated to the point that the hashtag “Gojo Thee Stallion” was trending on X (formerly Twitter).

The match made in heaven had people collectively losing their minds. So much so that many talented artists scrambled to make incredible works of fan art, further immortalizing the moment:

Megan thee Stallion Gojo cosplay fan art
Screengrabs via X (@shibewave_art/@feenwege/@kuroxcho/@NICOx2N/@ethjay)


Megan has such a gorgeous smile btw💜@Megan Thee Stallion . . . . . . #fyp #foryou #chicorish #megantheedtallion #gojotheestallion #satorugojo #gojo #gojoedit #gojocosplay #gojofanart #jjk #jujutsukaisen #art #blackartist #digitalart #procreate #smallartist

♬ HISS – Megan Thee Stallion

If the Crunchyroll Anime Awards were aiming at reaching a wider audience and generating more chatter this year, they surely have managed to attain the feat. Bring Megan Thee Stallion again next year and I’ll sit down – along with many others surely – to watch the event once more in 2025.


By: Margarida Bastos
Title: Is Megan Thee Stallion a ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ fan? ‘Gojo Thee Stallion,’ explained
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Published Date: Sun, 03 Mar 2024 17:15:47 +0000

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Baller Awards

Oppenheimer Wins Big at the MPSE Golden Reel Awards


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Oppenheimer has now won both the Cinema Audio Society and the two key awards at the Motion Picture Sound Editors Guild. It is sweeping the season at an astonishing pace. The Zone of Interest did not win in its category, and was beaten by Society of the Snow. But really, Zone is more of Sound […]


By: Sasha Stone
Title: Oppenheimer Wins Big at the MPSE Golden Reel Awards
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Published Date: Mon, 04 Mar 2024 05:22:18 +0000

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Baller Awards

‘Attack On Titan’ should have been nominated for Anime of the Year and I’ll die on that hill


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This article contains spoilers for the final season of Attack on Titan

The Crunchyroll Anime Awards was a night to remember, partly because of the obvious snubs that fans like me couldn’t overlook. And yes, I’m talking about Attack On Titan’s snub for Anime of the Year.

Between the Bleach and Vinland Saga snubs, the anime community was in a justified uproar. However, the Anime of the Year award, the most anticipated award of the night, didn’t interest me because the near-perfect Attack On Titan didn’t even make the cut.

To put it mildly, Attack On Titan had an explosive year in 2023, finally concluding the highly acclaimed series after over 10 years. But the penultimate offering might have been arguably the most emotionally gripping moment in anime history. So why wasn’t it even a contender for the award? Crunchyroll, you will pay for these crimes! 

Why AOT Deserved an Anime of the Year Nomination

Two words: The Rumbling.

Attack on Titan has been a global phenomenon since its first season, but the twists and turns that led up to The Rumbling were the most satisfying. The plot only seemed to get more complex and mysterious with every new season, and every answer unveiled only led to a new question. The Final Season: Special 1 begins with The Rumbling, the highly anticipated catastrophic march of Colossal Titans on Marley, led by Eren, and covers how the characters rally together to stop him.

This special episode was perfect for many reasons. It brought us back to Eren’s point of view, showing us how he justified his actions to himself and how he had been grappling with the reality of his fate since he arrived in Marley. MAPPA also spared no details in depicting the devastation of The Rumbling, in a sequence that was quite difficult to watch, despite Attack on Titan’s reputation for gruesome scenes. Moreover, the special also had an emotional core, loaded with scenes like Armin and Annie’s heartfelt conversation, and Hange’s heart-wrenching send-off.

Altogether, all the themes of AOT were laid bare, and we saw the characters at their most vulnerable. Attack on Titan has been a colossal anime for a decade (pun intended), so a snub in the most recognized category seems quite dismissing of a decade’s worth of excellence. There is no doubt that this finale was more than award-worthy, and deserved to be recognized as such.

Did AOT get any nominations?

Fortunately, Attack on Titan wasn’t totally snubbed by the Crunchyroll Awards. Although the second part of the final episode wasn’t eligible for nominations due to its late release date of November, The Final Season, The Final Chapters: Special 1 received multiple nominations. Here are the categories that AOT received nominations in:

• Best Animation

• Best Continuing Series

• Best Director

• Best Cinematography

• Best Action

• Best Drama

• Best Main Character – Eren Jaeger

• Best Supporting Character – Hange Zoe

• Best Score

• Best Voice Artist Performance (Japanese) – Yuki Kaji

Overall, Attack On Titan earned many nominations at the 2024 Crunchyroll Anime Awards, but that is the precise reason why it deserved to have a spot among the Anime of the Year nominees. Nonetheless, the anime took home the awards for Best Drama and Best Score. Crunchyroll had better come through next year, and reward the fans, crew, cast, and of course, Hajime Isayama, with an Anime of the Year nomination for Attack On Titan at the 2025 Anime Awards.


By: Demi Phillips
Title: ‘Attack On Titan’ should have been nominated for Anime of the Year and I’ll die on that hill
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Published Date: Mon, 04 Mar 2024 10:37:56 +0000

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