The 85-year-old actor kicked off the opening ceremony of the football competition on Sunday (20 November) by narrating the opening segment The Calling at Al-Bayt Stadium in Doha.
He told the crowd: “We gather here as one big tribe and Earth is the tent we all live in.”
This year’s World Cup has been embroiled in controversy due to its host country, Qatar, and the concerns over human rights abuses there.
The plight of the migrant workers who helped build Qatar’s infrastructure has been highlighted frequently in the run-up to the tournament.
Concerns have also been raised over the country’s attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community. Kick It Out’s Qatar working group has said that despite repeated requests, proper reassurances over safety have not been given, meaning LGBTQ+ fans have largely stayed away from a country that criminalises same-sex relationships.
Other LGBTQ+ groups have indicated they are staying away to protect the community within Qatar, who Human Rights Watch says are targeted by the authorities – something the government strongly denies.
Freeman’s appearance at the opening ceremony in the Middle East nation is now being criticised by many on social media.
“For a man who played Nelson Mandela – who knew better than anyone the impact and importance of isolation on a country and its success on the ground to change that nation’s policy – it is so disappointing to see #MorganFreeman take the money and support an oppressive regime,” one person wrote on Twitter.
Another person added: “@morganfreeman very disappointed, some people will do anything for money. Won’t watch #shawshankredemption again.”
One person wrote: “Morgan Freeman should be ashamed. How much they pay you? How much is your integrity? Never rise your voice to talk about of minorities. You just lost that privilege.”
The Independent has contacted Freeman’s representatives for comment.