The Royal Belgian Football Association has abandoned plans for an official World Cup song with rapper Damso after a public outcry over sexism and threats of violence against women in his lyrics, according to the New York Times and the BBC.
While the organization originally said it would not be “taken hostage” by the controversy, early Friday it announced that it had ended the collaboration “by mutual agreement.” It apologized to anyone who felt offended by the choice. In the statement, the association said, “Unfortunately, this implies that there will be no official song for the 2018 World Cup.”
The organization, which also came under criticism from sponsors Coca-Cola and Adidas as well as several politicians, added, “For a few reasons we thought it would be a good choice – he was a young man from an immigrant background.”
Damso (real name: William Kalubi) did not comment officially, but in interviews with Belgian media, he denied the accusations of sexism and said critics did not understand the context of his lyrics. He also said he viewed the controversy as free advertising. The rapper, who is Belgian-Congolese, had been chosen to perform a song he had written called “Humains” during the tournament, which is slated to take place in July in Russia.
Belgium has had laws against gender-related insults and sexist intimidation since 2014. Zuhal Demir, minister for equal opportunities in the Belgian government, said in a Facebook post that if Damso’s lyrics were directed at women in public, they would be illegal.
In a letter to RBFA’s sponsors, the Women’s Council of Belgium described Damso’s lyrics as “expressing loathing, abuse and violence towards women to a degree that is quite frankly astonishing.”
Damso is signed to Universal Records, which declined the BBC’s request for comment.