Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
American football journalist Grant Wahl says he was detained by security officials after wearing the rainbow jersey at the US World Cup opening game against Wales.
Wahl, who works for CBS Sports and writes the popular Substack column, wore a T-shirt in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community ahead of a game at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Qatar. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.
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However, according to him, the guard told him that the shirt was forbidden. Wahl said the security guard “forcibly ripped” his phone out of his hands when he tweeted about the incident. He said he was then detained for 25 minutes and ordered to take off his shirt, which a security official described as “political”. He was also asked if he was from the UK.
Wahl says he told a New York Times reporter who was passing by about what happened and he too was detained, but released shortly after.
“Then the head of security approached me,” Wahl wrote in his Substack column. “He said that they let me through and apologized. We shook hands. One of the guards told me that they were just trying to protect me from the fans inside who could harm me for wearing the shirt… Later, the FIFA representative also apologized to me.
“But this whole episode made me think: what is it like for ordinary Qataris who can wear a rainbow shirt when the world is not watching here? What is it like?
Wahl said he was subsequently allowed to wear the jersey in the stadium.
A Welsh LGBTQ+ supporter group has said some of its members are banned from wearing rainbow hats to the same game.
FIFA says everyone is welcome at this year’s World Cup, but LGBTQ+ rights activists earlier on Monday criticized football’s world governing body after it threatened to sanction players who wear OneLove armbands in the tournament.
England, Wales and five other European nations have confirmed their players will not be wearing armbands, saying FIFA has made it clear their captains could be warned or forced off the field if they do so.
Stonewall, an LGBTQ+ charity, tweeted: “Threatening sports sanctions and banning players from wearing #One Love armbands, FIFA silences criticism of human rights violations.
“LGBTQ+ criminalized in Qatar just for being themselves. No country that violates the human rights of its people in this way should have the honor of hosting a major sports tournament.
“We appreciate everything @England as well as @Wales players’ efforts to raise awareness of the horrendous violations of the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar, and we encourage them to continue to speak out in Qatar in the best and safest way possible.”