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Christian Eriksen shows off the 'toned down' Denmark kit in Helsingborg, Denmark, on Sept. 19.MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/AFP/Getty Images

A few days ago, Denmark made a great noise of announcing its opposition to holding the coming World Cup in Qatar.

Its team uniform will be stripped to a monochrome. Of the three colour options, one is all black. “The colour of mourning,” according to the manufacturer, Hummel.

“We support the Danish national team all the way, but that isn’t the same as supporting Qatar as a host nation,” Hummel said in a statement.

But you’re still taking orders for the shirts, right? And the team is still going there to play? And they will broadcast the games on Danish TV? And sell ads? And drink beer? And cheer in the streets when you win?

All those things will happen, but hey, remember – it may look like support, and sound like support, and be support. But it’s not support.

This flaccid gesture made global headlines.

So the gauntlet has been thrown – Denmark has done absolutely nothing meaningful to protest the World Cup. What meaningless, headline-grabbing thing will every other country do to one-up it?

It seems no sports can happen anywhere these days without some sort of protest, but what a sad sort of protest most of it is.

The old sports protest was, at its essence, boycott. You didn’t like how something was done? Then you didn’t participate.

Soviet Union invades Afghanistan? Then have fun. The rest of us are out of here.

You could argue about the motives or effectiveness of boycotts, but you could not dispute their moral force. There’s no stronger way to end an argument than refusing to participate.

The new sports protest is more nuanced. You don’t like how something is done? Then find a way to turn a sad situation into an opportunity for self-aggrandizement.

Make a huge ruckus about how you wish things were different, but whisper the bit about how you aren’t doing the obvious thing – not playing – to force that change.

You know how you show Qatar that you have a problem with the way it handles LGBTQ+ issues? You don’t go there.

You know how European national teams going to Qatar plan to show their protest? By wearing “One Love” rainbow armbands during World Cup matches.

“This is the biggest statement we can make,” said Dutch manager Frank de Boer.

I’m not sure which is worse – if de Boer is being disingenuous, or if he actually believes that.

This sort of protest is not just useless. It’s contrary to purpose. It leaves the impression that notice has been given, when the opposite has just happened.

You haven’t changed anything. You haven’t even left your target in a tremulous state of wondering if it has got away with something.

Instead, you are telling it that you believe what it has done is wrong, wrong, wrong, but you’re going along with it anyway. This isn’t protest. It’s collaboration.

The two of you have brainstormed a way to give everyone everything they want – the stadiums are built with conscript labour; you pretend to be angry; you all have your fun sports month together and everyone gets rich. Ta-daaaaaa.

Choosing to go to the World Cup in Qatar while bemoaning the World Cup in Qatar is like having dinner at Idi Amin’s house, but refusing on moral grounds to take leftovers. You already ate, man.

In France, municipalities are falling over themselves to announce that they will not be holding the usual public viewing parties of World Cup matches because of le outrage.

One of those revolutionary cities is Paris. The Richie Rich local soccer club, Paris Saint-Germain, is owned by the Qataris. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to sound like we care.

French cities can do what they like (while conveniently sparing themselves the hassle of holding a series of publicly funded block parties), but France has already spoken. It’s for the World Cup in Qatar. Because it’s going there.

“Taking part in the World Cup doesn’t mean closing one’s eyes and supporting [abuse],” the French Football Federation said in a statement.

So you’re doing it with eyes wide open?

“I will not watch a single match of this World Cup. This will cost me because since I was a kid it’s been an event that I love, that I look forward to and that I watch with passion. But let’s be honest with ourselves. This World Cup makes no sense. The only meaning of this event, as we all know, is money,” former French player and lavishly paid soccer iconoclast, Eric Cantona, wrote.

Was Eric Cantona under the impression that the meaning of every previous World Cup was charity? Hasn’t his professional life been an exchange of soccer services to the highest corporate bidder?

I am reminded here of an exchange in that underrecognized American classic, Judgment Night.

Bad Guy 1: “This money’s got blood on it, man.”

Bad Guy 2: “You ever seen any that didn’t?”

This isn’t all to say that nothing ought be done about the injustices in the world. It is to say that I am sick of hearing about how ethically tortured the people who choose to benefit from them are. If you are on the field at the World Cup, you are not an outsider. You are an insider. If you believe there is a problem, then you are part of it. Accept that and move on.

This isn’t just a difficulty of sportsmen and women. Every nitwit that corners people online to lecture them about climate change while still racking up frequent-flier miles is a main offender. But it is in sports that this tendency has become most obvious.

All of us have always been, to one extent or another, hypocrites. Our ethics tend to line up with things that convenience us. But we weren’t always so anxious to advertise it.

You want to make a fuss about not agreeing with how something is done? Then you either change the way it’s done or you don’t do it.

Everything else is marketing.

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