When Qatar was selected as host for the World Cup despite its horrific anti-LGBTQ laws, FIFA soccer and Qatari World Cup officials went out of their way to insist visitors wearing rainbow colors at games would be respected. It was a lie.
We saw that Monday when American journalist Grant Wahl, one of the world’s best soccer writers, detailed how he was detained and harassed by security officials when he tried to enter a stadium as a credentialed journalist wearing a T-shirt with a rainbow soccer ball. Wahl recounts:
“You have to change your shirt,” one guard told me. “It’s not allowed.” ...
Nearly half an hour passed. One security guard told me that my shirt was “political” and not allowed. Another continually refused to give me back my phone. Another guard yelled at me as he stood above me — I was sitting on a chair by now — that I had to remove my shirt.
I told him no.
“You can make this easy. Take off your shirt,” one said.
I told him no, adding that my shirt wasn’t political at all.
My friend Andrew Das, a reporter for the New York Times, walked past, and I informed him what was going on. They detained him too.
Wahl also had his phone ripped from his hand after sending a tweet detailing the incident. After 25 minutes, he was finally let in to cover the game, and given the BS excuse that he was asked to remove the shirt for his own protection.
The treatment of Wahl, along with FIFA demanding that any players who wore pro-LGBTQ armbands remove them or get a yellow card, show that Qatar is thumbing its nose at any pretense of acceptance during the tournament. The country’s law show a hatred of LGBTQ people and no monthlong tournament will change that.
Wahl summed up the situation perfectly in a tweet: “Both FIFA and US Soccer representatives told me publicly that rainbows on shirts and flags would not be a problem at the Qatar World Cup. The problem is they don’t control this World Cup. The Qatari regime does, and it keeps moving the goalposts.”
In addition, supporters of Wales had their rainbow hats confiscated before being allowed to enter the stadium to watch Wales play the U.S.
Fortunately, Wahl and other journalists — such as German TV commentator Claudia Neumann and the BBC’s Alex Scott — who wear rainbow attire will keep the issue front and center. It’s not much, but it’s a reminder of the deal with the anti-gay devil FIFA struck when it selected Qatar.