The horrific execution of an athlete cannot be without consequence or justice

The World Players Association today said that international sport must make five essential commitments in response to the horrific execution of Iranian wrestling athlete Navid Afkari on September 12.

The reported hanging of Navid was a brazen act by Iran in the face of a global campaign by athletes, the sports and human rights movement and parts of the international sports community that demanded clemency for Navid. Navid was callously targeted by Iran as a high-profile athlete in the iconic sport of wrestling, falsely convicted and condemned to death by means of a coerced confession obtained through his torture and that of his two brothers, Vahid and Habib.

Brendan Schwab, World Players Executive Director said:

“Navid’s execution represents a profound challenge for the leadership and all involved in the international sports community. Should we fail to respond, the very meaning of sport will be fundamentally questioned and the safety of athletes worldwide who speak up for human rights and social justice and against discrimination and repression will be in jeopardy.

“Some within the international sports community have already claimed Navid’s execution is unrelated to sport. Athletes sit at the heart of sport and are, first and foremost, human beings. They are entitled to due process and a fair trial free of any threat of torture or execution.

“International sport must investigate whether an athlete’s rights have been so fundamentally violated and, if so, act.

“We must all act, with deep respect for the athletes and people of Iran, to deliver justice for Navid, to bring about systemic change so this won’t happen again, and to protect the legitimacy of sport itself.

“The alternative is an untenable question – what does it mean if sport allows Navid’s execution to pass without any consequence?”

The five essential commitments that must be part of any effective response by the international sports community are:

In partnership with athletes, unions and civil society, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Federations (IFs) must:

(1)       Decide that the execution of Navid is fundamentally inconsistent with Iran’s continuing membership of the international sports community. It must result in Iran’s exclusion from:

(a)        the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games;

(b)       the sport of wrestling by United World Wrestling (UWW). Other IFs should follow given Iran’s repression of human rights in connection with sport is endemic; and

(c)        any right to host international sporting events.

(2)       Condemn the death penalty and the use of torture on athletes and in connection with sport

(3)       Support athlete activism

(4)       Urgently embed human and athlete rights in international sport

(5)       Commission an investigation into the targeting of athlete activists for political purposes

Navid’s case is not the first. Not only is such conduct an appalling violation of internationally recognised human rights, it constitutes political interference in sport of the most grotesque form.

Read the full statement of the five essential commitments.

The World Players Association, part of UNI Global Union, is the exclusive global voice of organized players and athletes across professional sport. It brings together 85,000 players through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries. Its role is to ensure that the voice of organized players is heard at the highest levels in the decision-making of international sport.

World Players is a founding member of the Sport & Rights Alliancea coalition of global non-governmental organizations, including Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Football Supporters Europe, Human Rights Watch, ILGA World, the International Trade Union Confederation and Transparency International Germany.

For more information please contact, Leonie Guguen, Senior Communications Manager, UNI Global Union. Tel: +41 79 137 5436 or Email: