A monthly protest was held outside Puma’s flagship store in London on February 10, opposing the company’s support for illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian lands.
In July 2018, Puma signed a four-year sponsorship deal with the Israel Football Association (IFA), under which it agreed to provide equipment to all Israeli national football teams, including kits. The IFA includes six teams from the illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Following the deal, an international campaign to boycott Puma was launched which has won support from across the globe. The campaign is also supported by over 200 Palestinian sports clubs and associations, as well as many Palestinian athletes including the captain of the men’s national football team, Abdullatef Buhdari, and Aya Khattab of the women’s national football team.
A significant victory for the campaign and the movement against Israeli occupation came on February 12 when the United Nations Human Rights Office released a list of 112 companies “involved in certain activities relating to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The list included the name of Delta Galil, Puma’s exclusive licensee in Israel.
In April 2019, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement said in a statement, “When companies like Puma sponsor and profit from illegal Israeli settlements, they give a nod to Israel’s far-right regime that its criminal land grabs and attacks on Palestinian sports can continue unabated.”
The BDS movement also highlighted the bombing of Palestinian playgrounds and stadiums by the Israeli military in Gaza, the restrictions on practicing sports, particularly near the apartheid wall, as well as the construction of Israeli sports clubs and stadiums on stolen, occupied Palestinian land.
Various global protest actions have been held since the campaign was launched. Two international days of action were held in 2019, in the months of June and October. Over 20 countries participated on both days and #BoycottPuma registered millions of impressions on social media. Protests were held at Puma shops and offices and at matches of Puma-sponsored teams as part of these actions.
In Malaysia, the Universiti Sans Islam Malaysia (USIM) held a friendly football match as part of efforts to raise awareness of the campaign in October last year. The match was held between Palestinian Students Association of Malaysia and a USIM student team.
UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk also said in November last year that Puma’s activities should not be allowed in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Lynk told the Danish news portal Danwatch, “Germany and the EU should not allow PUMA’s activities in the occupied [Palestinian] territories. Countries, and their domicile corporations, should not have economic relations with Israeli settlements because they are illegal under international law, and the UN Security Council has directed the international community not to assist the Israeli settlements in any way.”
Puma supports settlement football teams and its exclusive licensee in Israel has branches in settlements.
— PACBI (@PACBI) January 4, 2020
Former Barcelona player Oleguer Presas also supported the boycott call, urging Puma to end sponsorship of Israeli teams in illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land.
As part of the campaign, over 30,000 emails were also sent to football clubs across the UK, calling on them to boycott Puma. Following these struggles, the club Chester FC did not renew its contract with Puma, and even Liverpool rejected Puma’s sponsorship bid.
Before Puma, Adidas was the sponsor of the IFA and its affiliate teams for 10 years. Adidas ended its sponsorship following a similar BDS campaign in 2018. At the time, Adidas had said that “it supports and upholds human rights and that it had raised with FIFA the need for it to make a decision regarding the status of Israeli settlement teams”.
All Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian lands are illegal and a war crime under international law, and this status automatically extends to teams originating from inside the settlements.