According to a report in the Daily Mirror, Newcastle United striker Papisse Cisse is to refuse to wear the new team strip which is sponsored by Wonga.com on religious and ethical grounds. Cisse is a practicing Muslim and reportedly his objections stem from Islamic Sharia law which states that Muslims must not benefit from either lending money or receiving money from another person. Wonga supply payday loans with significant APR charges on them.
Should Cisse be required to wear the strip then he may be able to raise a claim for indirect discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. To be successful he would need to persuade a Tribunal that the requirement to wear the strip put him at a particular disadvantage compared to those who did not share his religious beliefs, and Newcastle United would need to be unable to show that the requirement was a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate aim. While Cisse may well be able to establish the disadvantage, it may be that Newcastle United could establish that there was a real business need (to secure sponsorship) and that requiring the whole team to wear the strip was a legitimate way of achieving that aim.
This may seem to contradict the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which recently found that an employee of BA had had her right to manifest her religion unlawfully infringed by the company's dress code. The ECHR found in favour of Ms Eweida when they balanced her right to manifest her religion by wearing a small cross against BA's right to maintain a particular corporate image. Perhaps of more interest is that three other claims that were heard along side Ms Eweida's claim failed. Two of those related to employees who were dismissed for failing to supply services to same sex couples, and one related to a refusal to allow an employee to wear a cross as doing so put the safety of nurses and patients in the NHS at risk. In those cases the rights of the same sex couples and the rights of the nurses and patients outweighed the rights of the individuals to manifest their belief.