Robbie Williams’ decision to perform at the FIFA World Cup in Russia did not sit well with critics, and now he’s firing back.
Williams’ performance during the opening ceremonies included his songs “Let Me Entertain You”, “Feel” and “Angels”.
However, in the middle of his appearance, Williams flipped off the camera, which caused a frenzy on social media.
Early this week, politicians and campaigners slammed the move by Williams, urging him to follow the lead of the royal family and government members and boycott the games in protest against Russia’s alleged involvement in the Skripal poisoning in the U.K.
The head of the global Magnitsky justice campaign, Bill Browder, took to Twitter to call out Williams: “There’s lots of ways to make money Robbie Williams, but selling your soul to a dictator shouldn’t be one of them. Shame on you.”
He continued: “This message is on behalf of Sergei Magnitsky, Boris Nemtsov, Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estimirova, victims of MH17, 10,000 dead Ukrainian soldiers.”
England’s Labour MP, Stephen Doughty, said in a statement: “It is surprising and disappointing to hear that such a great British artist as Robbie Williams, who has been an ally of human rights campaigns and the LGBT+ community, has apparently agreed to be paid by Russia and Fifa to sing at the World Cup opener.”
“At a time when Russian jets are bombing civilians in Syria, the Russian state is poisoning people on the streets of Britain, as well as persecuting LGBT+ people in Chechnya and elsewhere – let alone attempting to undermine our democracies – I can only assume Robbie will be speaking out on these issues alongside his performance?”
Fans aren’t so happy with Williams’ decision either:
As the controversy refused to die down, a spokesperson for the Fox Sports Network issued an apology for Williams’ behaviour.
“The 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony was a newsworthy event produced by a third party and carried live on Fox,” the spokesperson told Deadline on Thursday. “As it was broadcast live, we did not know what would happen during Robbie Williams’ performance and we apologize.”