US journalist claims he was detained in Qatar for rainbow clothing

(CNN) — Some people attending the 2022 World Cup matches have said they have had difficulties in Qatar trying to enter stadiums while wearing clothing in support of LGBTQ rights.

On Monday, at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, ahead of the United States’ match against Wales, American soccer journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McAllister said security had asked them to remove their clothing. with the colors of the rainbow.

Wahl said he was held up and briefly denied entry to the game because of the “rainbow soccer ball jersey” he was wearing, posting on Twitter that the security staff had told him: “You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed.”

Wahl is an American soccer journalist.

The journalist wrote on his website that when he tweeted about the incident on his phone, “a guard forcibly ripped my phone out of my hands.”

“I was told by a security guard that my T-shirt was ‘political’ and not allowed,” Wahl wrote. “Another repeatedly refused to give me my phone back. Another guard yelled at me while he was on top of me, already sitting on a chair, that I had to take my shirt off.”

Wahl said he was released 25 minutes after being detained and received an apology from a FIFA official and a senior member of the stadium’s security team.

Wahl told CNN on Tuesday that he had been assured in advance that he would be allowed to wear the rainbow garment and that he would “probably” wear the shirt again, as he has “no fear at all about any of this.”

When asked about representing the LGBTQ community, Wahl said, “It’s really important to me and it’s not necessary, far from it.”

“I have family members who are gay. I have friends who are gay. I have journalist friends who are gay and who are here in Qatar. But you don’t need that to be supportive, to be an ally.”

“So yesterday I was thinking about all those people. I was thinking about Colorado Springs. I was thinking about all kinds of things. And if I have to be stopped for 30 minutes, it’s kind of annoying. But it’s not a problem for me. So I was glad to be able to help at least a little”.

McAllister, who captained the Wales women’s soccer team in the 1990s, said security officers stopped her and confiscated her rainbow-colored cap before allowing her into the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

“So, despite @FIFAWorldCup’s good words ahead of the event, @Cymru caps are confiscated [Gales] with rainbows in the stadium, including mine,” tweeted McAllister about the incident.

“I had a discussion about this with representatives, we have video evidence. This #WorldCup2022 is only getting better, but we will continue to uphold our values,” added McAllister.

Video posted online by British outlet ITV appears to show McAllister being stopped at a security checkpoint and a person in a police uniform gesturing to her cap.

“They insisted that unless I took my cap off I was not allowed into the stadium,” McAllister said in the ITV interview.

McAllister, who played 24 times for Wales, told ITV security officials said the rainbow cap was a “prohibited symbol”.

“I think we’ve been given a lot of warning that this was not going to be a tournament where human rights, LGBT rights and women’s rights were going to be well respected, but coming from a nation like Wales, we were very interested in take a stand by coming here,” McAllister told ITV.

The cap in question is sold by The Rainbow Wall, a self-styled LGBTQ+ support group for the Welsh national teams.

Shortly after it was announced that captains from several European nations would not wear “OneLove” armbands at the World Cup in Qatar due to the danger of receiving yellow cards, former England international Alex Scott wore a rainbow armband while taking part in coverage on Monday. from the BBC’s match between England and Iran.
England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Wales were to participate in the “OneLove” campaign to promote inclusion and oppose discrimination.

However, the associations of these countries said in a statement on Monday that the bracelet, which features a striped heart in different colors to represent all heritages, origins, genders and sexual identities, would not be worn in Qatar.

harry kane LGBTQ

England’s Harry Kane wearing the “OneLove” armband during a match in September. Credit: Nick Potts/PA Images/Getty Images

It was announced on Tuesday that the supermarket chain Rewe had ended its cooperation with the German Football Federation, due to FIFA’s “outrageous” ban on the “OneLove” bracelet.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also criticized the world sport’s governing body for its stance on bracelets.

“From my point of view, it’s always a concern when free speech is restricted. Especially when the speech is for diversity and inclusion,” Blinken said.

“And in my judgment, at least, no one on the football field should be forced to choose between supporting these values ​​and playing for their team,” Blinken told reporters while speaking in Doha on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Belgian soccer federation announced that it had to remove the word “love” from its kit due to a trade dispute that preceded the decision not to wear the “OneLove” armband.

CNN has contacted FIFA and the World Cup organizers for comment and clarification on the official dress code for the World Cup.

According to the FIFA manual, “expatriates and tourists are free to wear whatever clothing they like, as long as it is modest and respectful of the culture.”

In the run-up to the World Cup, Qatar, where sex between men is illegal and punishable by up to three years in jail, has come under fire for its stance on LGBTQ rights.

A Human Rights Watch report, released last month, documented cases as recent as September of Qatari security forces arbitrarily detaining LGBT people and subjecting them to “ill-treatment in detention.”

However, the country has insisted that “everyone is welcome” at the tournament, adding in a statement to CNN this month that “our track record has shown that we have welcomed everyone, regardless of background.”