Belgium Drops Rapper from World Cup Song After Sexism Outcry

Damso has also attracted criticized from Muslims for a line in a 2015 song, “Pinocchio,” in which he describes performing a certain sex act on a woman and says, “and yet you wear a head scarf.”

In an email on Thursday, Ms. Demir said that she recognized Damso’s “artistic right to make these songs” but that the question was whether “we want to promote Damso and the way he views women.” Others saw a free-speech issue. An editorial on Thursday in the Dutch-language paper Het Laatste Nieuws in Belgium said that replacing Damso would amount to a “festival of censorship.”

Damso did not respond to requests from The New York Times for comment. In interviews in the Belgian news media, he denied charges of sexism and laughed off criticism, saying he viewed the controversy as free advertising. He told the Belgian website Alohanews that his critics were lazy and had not taken the time to understand the codes of rap music.

In its initial statement, the Belgian soccer association had defended Damso as the “proud father of a young girl,” as an “immigrant artist who grew up in the streets of Kinshasa,” in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and as “an example of integration.”

Ms. Demir said that using the rapper’s immigrant status to defend sexism was “way out of line and insulting to immigrants.”

Women’s groups have worked to influence the soccer association by targeting its corporate sponsors over the last few days: An open letter to the chief executives of those companies asked them to drop their backing for the Belgian team because of the lyrics, which were said to “express hate, abuse and violence toward women to a degree that is frankly stupefying.”

In the statement on Friday reversing course, the Belgian soccer association said, “Unfortunately, this implies that there will be no official song for the 2018 World Cup.”

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