US sports writer says he was detained in Qatar for wearing rainbow shirt to World Cup game

US sports writer says he was detained in Qatar for wearing rainbow shirt to World Cup game
One of the 2022 FIFA World Cup stadiums in Qatar.David Ramos/Getty Images
  • An American journalist said he was detained for wearing a rainbow t-shirt to a Qatar World Cup game.
  • Grant Wahl said guards told him to remove it, took his phone, and detained him for 25 minutes.

A US sports writer said he was detained in Qatar for wearing a pro-LGBT rainbow t-shirt to a World Cup game in Qatar.

Grant Wahl said he went to the stadium's media entrance on Monday wearing the t-shirt, where "the security guards refused to let me in, detained me for 25 minutes and angrily demanded that I remove my t-shirt."

Wahl, a former Sports Illustrated soccer writer who now works independently, also shared a photo of himself wearing the shirt, showing a soccer ball surrounded by a rainbow.

The rainbow is used as a symbol of LGBT rights and pride, and is contentious in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

Wahl wrote about what happened in a Substack post.


He said that he was first told by a guard that he was not "allowed" to wear the t-shirt and would have to remove it if he wanted to enter the stadium.

Wahl said he then tweeted what had happened, and a guard "forcibly ripped my phone from my hands."

Wahl said one guard told him the shirt was "political" and therefore disallowed, and that another told him to remove it.

He said that the guards also detained New York Times reporter Andrew Das when he walked by and Wahl told him what was happening, and that they released Das before they did Wahl.

A New York Times spokesperson told Insider "Andrew Das was stopped briefly after photographing Grant Wahl's detention by World Cup security."


Wahl said he was released when a "security commander" walked up, apologized, and said they were letting him go.

One of the guards then told Wahl that they were trying to protect him from any harm that might come to him for wearing a rainbow t-shirt inside the stadium, Wahl wrote.

"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 said.

Qatar's LGBT rights record has marred this year's World Cup, sparking renewed protests about the decision to let the country host it.

The team captains of seven European nations, including England and Germany, planned on wearing rainbow armbands during their games to protest homosexuality being illegal in Qatar.


But the Football Associations said in a joint statement on Monday that they would no longer do so as they thought the players could be penalized for doing it.

Qatar also has poor media freedom. Wahl is not the only journalist who has had difficulty in covering the World Cup there.

A Danish journalist who was reporting on the tournament from Qatar before it started was seen being questioned by guards on video, and he later said "they told us if you continue filming we will break the camera."