American soccer reporter Grant Wahl was refused entry to a World Cup stadium in Qatar for allegedly wearing a rainbow t-shirt. Wahl claimed that the incident happened on Monday ahead of the US men's national team's opening match against Wales at Ahmad bin Ali stadium. However, he was later allowed, the reporter tweeted.
Male homosexuality is punishable in Qatar by a prison sentence and same-sex marriages are not recognized by the government. The World Cup in Qatar has faced severe criticism for "sportswashing" because of the host country's dismal record on human rights, particularly in regard to how it treats the LGBTQ+ population in the country.
No Entry for Sympathizers
Wahl, who works for CBS Sports and contributes a well-read column to Substack, wore a black t-shirt with a circle in the colors of the rainbow wrapping around a soccer ball on the front, as a sign of support for the LGBTQ+ community, to the game at Qatar's Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
However, he said a security guard told him the shirt was not allowed. Wahl claimed that a security official "forcibly ripped" his phone out of his hands. He claimed that after being detained for 25 minutes, a security guard ordered him to take off his shirt because it was "political." The question of his nationality was also raised.
He wrote on Twitter that he was initially denied entry to the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan. "Just now: Security guard refusing to let me into the stadium for USA-Wales. 'You have to change your shirt. It's not allowed,'" he tweeted.
Wahl claims that when he explained what had happened to Andrew Das, a New York Times reporter who was passing. That reporter too was then detained before being released shortly. He posted once again to reassure followers and social media users after 50 minutes, stating that he had been held for about 30 minutes.
"I'm OK, but that was an unnecessary ordeal. Am in the media center, still wearing my shirt. Was detained for nearly half an hour. Go gays," Wahl's second tweet read.
Finally, a security commander showed up and apologized to Wahl before releasing him. A FIFA official, according to Wahl, also apologized. "Then a security commander approached me," Wahl wrote in his Substack column. "He said they were letting me through and apologized. We shook hands. One of the security guards told me they were just trying to protect me from fans inside who could harm me for wearing the shirt ... A Fifa rep later apologized to me as well.
"But the entire episode left me wondering: What's it like for ordinary Qataris who might wear a rainbow shirt when the world isn't watching here? What's that like?" He was later also allowed to wear the t-shirt inside the stadium.
However, a Wales LGBTQ+ supporters group said some of its members were forbidden from wearing rainbow hats at the same game.
The strict Muslim nation of Qatar still forbids homosexuality, according to a World Cup ambassador who recently told a German TV station that homosexuality was "damage to the mind."
Wahl's tweet comes amid yet another controversy that has engulfed the tournament when FIFA disclosed that team captains may be subject to a booking and/or suspension if they choose to wear the OneLove rainbow armband in support of the LGBT+ community.
In Qatar, a nation that criminalizes same-sex partnerships, captains of nine European countries, including USA's Group B rivals Harry Kane of England and Gareth Bale of Wales, planned to wear the One Love armbands advocating inclusivity and LGBTQ+ rights.
Following FIFA's warning to impose athletic punishment on anybody wearing the OneLove armbands, England and six other European countries have announced that they would not wear them in Qatar.