Amid the backlash he has been facing since posting a video now viewed over 3 million times in which he appears to shred £10,000 in cash, Joe Lycett has set the record straight.
This year’s World Cup has been controversial to say the least.
The football tournament has been the centre of fierce debate on account of this year’s host, Qatar, which has been criticised due to the country’s extreme stance on LGBTQ+ issues, as well as mistreatment of migrant workers which has resulted in the deaths of thousands during the various construction projects that have taken place since the location was announced.
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Many significant figures have voiced their outrage and withdrawn their support for the World Cup including Dua Lipa, who posted a message on her Instagram story on Sunday denying speculation that she would perform, stating, “I look forward to visiting Qatar when it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host”. Meanwhile, Russell Howard condemned the events surrounding the World Cup on his show The Russell Howard Hour, declaring: “Football stadiums are supposed to be arenas of joy, not graveyards.”
Several team captains of European nations, including Harry Kane and Gareth Bale, were planning to wear OneLove armbands during their games in support of the LGBTQ+ community. But Fifa threatened them with yellow cards if they did so, and they have since decided not to wear them. A joint statement from the teams explaining the decision by saying, “We cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked, or even forced to leave the field of play.”
One person who is appalled by Qatar’s treatment of LGBTQ+ people is comedian Joe Lycett. In fact, Lycett was so infuriated by the fact that David Beckham has been appointed ambassador for the Qatar World Cup that he took things a step further.
In a video posted to Twitter on 13 November, Lycett addressed David Beckham and told him that he considered him a gay icon.
“But now it’s 2022, and you’ve signed a reported £10 million deal with Qatar to be their ambassador during the FIFA World Cup,” he told the camera.
“If you end your relationship with Qatar, I’ll donate this 10 grand of my own money – that’s a grand for every million you’re reportedly getting – to charities that support queer people in football.”
The alternative? He warned Beckham that if the football star did not end his relationship with Qatar, then he would throw the money into a shredder.
“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded,” he solemnly said.
The deadline in place was set: midday on Sunday 20 November, just before the opening ceremony was due to take place.
The video was live. People waited with bated breath. But as time ticked on and there appeared to be no response from Beckham, people began to wonder. Was Lycett for real?
Then, the clock struck. The unthinkable happened.
At 12:12pm on 20 November, like a peacock emerging from the shadows, Lycett stepped into view, engulfed in a multi-coloured puff of fabric, and picked up the cash. As viewers on social media watched on, Lycett stood in front of the industrial shredder and…
…threw the money in?
It was over in seconds. The backlash came in swiftly and sharply, with people outraged that Lycett would act so wastefully and irresponsibly during a cost of living crisis.
“I get the point you’re making, it’s valid, but shedding £10,000 is a total waste because it’s not going to force anyone to change. That money could’ve gone somewhere where it WOULD make a difference,” one Twitter user said.
“Shredding £10,000 no matter how legitimate your point when millions are using food banks in the UK is not progressive,” tweeted another.
Others were quick to jump to Lycett’s defence, arguing that it was a sacrifice worth making.
“If you feel uncomfortable about Joe Lycett shredding £10,000, that’s exactly the point,” wrote one defender. “It’s a statement on discomfort and money: at Qatar’s oppression of gay people and David Beckham profiting from them.”
“I don’t understand how so many people don’t get the economics of this. There’s no way he could buy this much publicity for £10k. If Joe had taken out massive billboards to plug his message, few would’ve considered it a waste of money, and it would’ve cost more. This is *cheap*,” someone else tweeted.
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But, ultimately, all this arguing was irrelevant.
The following day, Joe Lycett came forward with an update in a follow-up video.
His big reveal? Of course he didn’t shred £10k.
Back in the warehouse, the rainbow garment now shoved aside and the shredder looming ominously in the background, Lycett sits at a table and talks to Beckham, again, in a final message.
“When you didn’t end your relationship or even respond in any way, I streamed myself dropping £10k into a shredder. Or did I?” he says. “I haven’t quite told you the whole truth. Because the truth is, the money that went into the shredder was real, but the money that came out was fake.”
“I would never destroy real money,” he continues. “I would never be so irresponsible.”
He goes onto explain that, in fact, £10,000 had already been donated to LGBTQ+ charities.
“I never expected to hear from you. It was an empty threat designed to get people talking,” he reveals. “In many ways, it was like your deal with Qatar, David. Total bullshit from the start.”
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Then, in a film-worthy twist, he tells David that there is one thing he will shred: an Attitude magazine cover from 2002 featuring a young David Beckham.
This, he tells us, is the first cover of a gay magazine that featured a Premier League footballer.
And then, with the shred heard around the world, it is destroyed.
Since then, support has come flooding in for Lycett’s stunt, with fans and viewers applauding his creativity.
“It’s all been quite a lot this, hasn’t it?” Lycett says, before the video ends.
Yes, Joe, it has. Not just because of this internet-breaking video, but because of all the debate the World Cup controversy has sparked in the past few weeks.
With the tournament now in full swing, we’re yet to see whether there will be any real consequences for Fifa or Qatar’s World Cup organisers.
Until then, we’ll still be waiting to hear from David.
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