The United States’ largest soccer supporters group, the American Outlaws, came under fire Thursday following a New York Times article claiming that a board member accepted a free trip to Qatar in exchange for reporting individuals who are critical of the host nation. The Outlaws have vehemently denied these allegations and issued a statement, saying the organization has never taken money from FIFA or Qatar and will never do so.
Early Thursday morning, the New York Times published an article discussing the Qatari government offering soccer fans free trips to the World Cup with the caveat that they will not be allowed to say anything negative publicly and report those who do. What caught the attention of many American readers, however, were accusations regarding the American Outlaws early in the story.
“A board member from the American Outlaws, the biggest U.S. supporters group, agreed to take part, and then helped sign up fellow members and others.”
The @nytimes reporting that a board member of the American Outlaws agreed to a free World Cup trip in exchange in part for reporting fans who make social media posts critical of Qatar. https://t.co/JUhAeYE7RP— Justin Egan (@EganSoccerWords) November 3, 2022
The author went on to explain that the aforementioned member had accepted an earlier trip to Qatar but, “had decided weeks ago not to accept free travel or housing from Qatar at the World Cup.”
The member in question appears to be Donald Wine II, who put out a statement in the aftermath of the story’s release.
With the NYT article that dropped this morning, I want to get this out there to you directly. pic.twitter.com/3tmByvzWQm— Donald Wine II (@blazindw) November 3, 2022
Wine serves as a member of the American Outlaws National Board, as well as co-chairperson for the United States Soccer Federation Fan Council. It was for the latter role that he had been invited to attend the World Cup Draw in April of 2022 as a fan representative.
In his statement, Wine fully exonerates the American Outlaws saying, “I want to stress that at no point was the American Outlaws involved as an organization.”
The Outlaws followed suit and released their own press release, thoroughly denying any wrongdoing by the organization.
— AO (@AmericanOutlaws) November 3, 2022
In their release, the organization addresses the allegations and categorically refutes these claims, saying, “AO and AO Impact have not taken money or perks from FIFA (or Qatar) and will never do so.”
Additionally, the Outlaws informed the public that there were attempts made by Qatari World Cup organizers to invite the group to participate in their fan advisory council. These attempts were declined.
The Outlaws went on to condemn the selection of Qatar and addressed the issues that have plagued the tournament for fans. In an exclusive interview with The18, published last week, Korey Donahoo and Justin Brunken, co-founders of the American Outlaws, discussed the challenges facing the organization as it planned for the 2022 World Cup.
“They made it impossible for us to be fans for this World Cup on the ground, for various reasons, which has been different than every other World Cup,” Brunken said, “It’ll be different for Australia New Zealand [the 2023 Women’s World Cup] where we’ll be able to do what we need. It’s gonna be amazing.”
With the World Cup weeks away as well as the Women’s World Cup in 2023 and in light of the allegations, the Outlaws also announced it will be conducting a review of the Board and member code of conduct, “to address conflicts of interest and other actions that may put our independence and member confidence at risk.”