American soccer journalist Grant Wahl was detained earlier today at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar after wearing a rainbow T-shirt with a soccer ball on it to a match.
Arriving at Al Rayyan Stadium to cover Senegal-Netherlands prior to the USA-Wales match today, Wahl says he was stopped by stadium security after noticing his shirt.
“You have to change your shirt,” a guard told Wahl, per his post about the incident. “It’s not allowed.”
Same-sex marriage and public displays of homosexuality are illegal in Qatar, though FIFA officials had spoken about the rainbow flag being allowed at the World Cup.
Wahl’s experience seems to display that local stadium guards don’t seem to be too welcoming of the flag.
An independent journalist from New York who previously worked for Sports Illustrated for two-and-half decades as well as CBS, Fox Sports, among other outlets, Wahl is one of the most prominent voices in American soccer coverage and currently has 839,000 Twitter followers at the time of publishing.
“When I arrived at the stadium media entrance to cover the United States-Wales World Cup game today wearing a rainbow soccer ball T-shirt supporting the LGBTQ community, the security guards refused to let me in, detained me for 25 minutes, and angrily demanded that I remove my T-shirt,” Wahl added. “One guard forcibly ripped my phone from my hands.”
Andrew Das, a journalist for the New York Times, was detained as well after showing support for Wahl.
In a follow-up tweet, Wahl said he was eventually able to enter the stadium while wearing the shirt, but called it an “unnecessary ordeal.”
“Go gays,” he wrote, adding a follow-up rainbow emoji.
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 🌈 https://t.co/S3INBoCz89
— Subscribe to GrantWahl.com (@GrantWahl) November 21, 2022
“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,” Wahl continued. “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?”
Wahl’s full post about the experience can be read for free on his Substack here.