An Iranian soccer player has been banned for six months after photos surfaced online showing him wearing yellow ‘SpongeBob’ pants.
Sosha Makani, who plays for the Tehran-based Persepolis club, was pictured wearing a blue shirt and tight yellow dotted pants that were described as resembling the cartoon character.
The Iranian football federation’s morality committee said Makani’s clothing was “inappropriate” and suspended the 29-year-old, although he can appeal the ruling.
Makani, who has played for the Iran national team, has had a difficult 2016.
Back in January he was arrested and taken to Tehran’s Evin prison after pictures of him dancing with a woman were leaked.
He was released on bail after claiming the woman was his fiancée.
Legal expert Hossein Raeesi told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that Makani’s arrest at the time was linked to the country’s cybercrime laws.
“The law regarding internet crimes says if someone directly posts indecent photos of himself or others online, then a crime has been committed,” he said.
“But given his lawyer’s statements [regarding the hacking of Makani’s account] and the fact that he is a famous person, I doubt he posted the photos himself.”
Courts can hand down jail terms ranging from 91 days to two years or fines from $168 to $1,340 to anyone found guilty of breaking the laws.
An increasing number of Iranian celebrities and athletes have found themselves under scrutiny because of their online presence.
Tehran’s prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, issued a warning in January against posting “anti-Islamic” images on social media.
An award-winning Iranian actress was recently criticized after images of her appeared to show a feminist tattoo on her arm, while in May Iranian models were arrested for posting pictures of themselves on Instagram without headscarves.
It’s thought the Iranian government is worried how the country’s cultural and sports figures appear in public.
Analysts say authorities are looking to re-establish control after moderates and reformists united to win a majority of seats in Iran’s parliamentary elections in February.
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