February 25, 2024

A referee shows a yellow card to two Israeli football players during a UEFA EURO 2024 European qualifier match between Israel and Romania.

Photo: David Balogh/Getty Images (Getty Images)

In a bit of news that’s awkwardly timed to say the least, Puma will no longer sponsor the Israel Football Association (IFA), or Israel’s national soccer team, after next year.

The German sneaker giant says the decision, first reported by the Financial Times, was made for financial reasons, not political ones.

“The review of the existing roster of national teams along certain KPIs such as commercials and participation in major international tournaments led to a few changes,” the company said in a statement released to Quartz.

A Jerusalem Post op-ed suggested that Israel’s male under-20 team taking third place at its World Cup debut this year was a “Cinderella story.” The national men’s team is ranked No. 75 globally by FIFA. The women’s team is ranked 70th.

A different kind of soccer campaign 

Since 2005, the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has been formally organizing calls to boycott various global companies, on the grounds that they’re abetting Israeli settlement activity on Palestinian land that much of the international community considers illegal. It has called for consumers to avoid Puma since 2018, when the company began its sponsorship of the IFA.

BDS targeted Puma because the IFA governs soccer activity that occurs on settlement land. Pro-Palestinian groups have renewed focus on organizations called out by BDS in the wake of Israel’s military response to the Oct. 7 attacks from the Gaza Strip. Those attacks killed 1,200 people; the Israeli response has killed 18,000.

Though the IFA told the FT that attempts to connect Puma’s decision to pro-Palestinian boycotts are “pathetic” because the IFA had turned down an option to continue its contract through 2026, BDS took credit anyway.

“The years of relentless, global BDS pressure on PUMA and the damage to its image should be a lesson to all companies supporting Israeli apartheid, that complicity has consequences,” a statement from the group read.

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