The Belgian football federation says it will not change its mind about choosing a rapper known for lacing his songs with obscene and misogynistic lyrics to produce its official World Cup song.
The federation said in a statement Thursday — International Women's Day — that it did not want to be taken "hostage" by pro-women groups, who say it is unacceptable that an artist using degrading lyrics could be picked to produce what should be a unifying song for the country.
The soccer team's sponsors, however, said they would consult on whether it is wise to keep rapper Damso as the choice to produce the keynote song.
In its statement, the federation said the umbrella group of pro-women organizations, the Women's Council, had used the federation soon after the artist's choice was made in November to start the polemic "after cloaking itself in silence up to then."
Damso has said that his songs are more complicated that the denigrating terms imply and accused the media of unduly centering on him.
"If they would use all their media powers to promote many Belgian artists instead of criticizing one, Belgium would not be the same anymore," he wrote on his Twitter feed. The World Cup song itself has yet to be released.
Sponsors of the team were less bullish than the federation, and suggested they might intervene.
"Football is the sport for unity and to choose something like this which causes such a rift in society is a major worry for us," Florence Bribosia of the Belgian construction multinational Besix told the Associated Press.
"We stand for values," said Peter Dercon of brewing giant AB Inbev. He did not say what action could be taken.
Belgian State Secretary for equal opportunities Zuhal Demir said it was an incomprehensible decision by the federation to stick with an artist whose lyrics she considered vile, centering on sexual scenes with men dominating women.
Many said his vulgar language in previous songs made him worthy of all the criticism.
"As a federation, how can you defend this in front of your sponsors, and especially families and women? Even men," Demir wrote, before adding some of Damso's most criticized lyrics on her Facebook page.
The Women's Forum, a coalition of women's groups, has vowed that it will take further action.
In an open letter to 13 sponsors, it said it was "unacceptable" someone like Damso would become "the official standard bearer of our country. What does this say about our society? That we don't have any problems with hate speech toward half of humanity?"
If the federation fails to change its mind, the coalition said it would lodge a complaint with the Belgian equal rights office.