American journalist detained over rainbow shirt ahead of US-Wales match

AL RAYYAN, Qatar – Authorities at the World Cup venues in Qatar recently told two American journalists to take off their rainbow-colored clothing.

Los Angeles Times reporter Kevin Baxter was reported by a police officer at the U.S. men’s national team’s practice facility in Qatar on Saturday. No rainbow colored masks allowed.

Two days later, at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium where the USMNT played Wales on Monday night, longtime soccer journalist Grant Wahl said he was told by security to change into a rainbow shirt around the soccer ball. FIFA told Yahoo Sports that the incident was a “mistake” and said it had been “disciplined”.

Wall said in a follow-up tweet that he was detained for “about half an hour.” She wrote on her website that a security guard “forcefully ripped my phone out of my hand” after she tweeted about the incident. Eventually, she was allowed to enter in the shirt, but only after what she called a “test.”

LGBTQ rights have been one of several flashpoints at the World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is a crime. FIFA and the World Cup’s joint organizers, the Supreme Committee, have pledged to welcome LGBTQ fans and participants. FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Saturday that he “discussed this topic with the top leadership of the country not once, but several times.” And they confirmed that I welcome everyone.

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But ahead of Monday’s matches, seven European teams scrapped plans to wear rainbow-coloured anti-discrimination captain’s armbands after FIFA threatened them with “sporting sanctions”. Then, ESPN reported that FIFA demanded that Belgium remove the word “love” from the collar of their shirts two days before their Group F match against Canada.

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 21: A general view outside the stadium during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022.  (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

A general view outside the stadium during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar on November 21, 2022. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

A constant concern for fans and Western officials is the organizers’ inability to monitor the actions of every local police officer and security guard.

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Baxter, who has worn the rainbow mask for two years, was told to take it off when he entered the Thani bin Jassim Stadium before a US practice. He was then presented with the standard blue mask, only to realize that he had been told to remove it because of the LGBTQ Pride colors. “I was disappointed at the time,” he told Yahoo Sports. He refused to wear a simple mask and went without a mask.

After Baxter tweeted about the incident, a U.S. Soccer official told him he was “very disappointed with the actions of the police officer.” Later, a representative of the Supreme Committee called him, asked for his safety and told him that the incident would be investigated.

Val also said he apologized to a FIFA official. Here is Val’s description of the story from his website:

A security guard told me that my shirt was “political” and was not allowed. Another refused to return my phone. Another guard stood over me and yelled at me – I was now sitting on a bench – that I needed to take my shirt off.

“You can do it easily. Take off your shirt,” said one.

I told him no, that my shirt was not political at all.

My friend Andrew Das, a reporter for the New York Times, happened to be passing by, and I told him what was going on. He was also arrested.

Finally the guards got me to my feet and turned me around to face the video camera above us.

“Are you from the UK?” asked a guard.

“New York,” I said. This was getting boring. I came when I thought I had enough time to watch the Netherlands-Senegal game, and now I miss it.

Andy was finally let go. Then the security commander came to me. He said he was passing me on and apologized. We hold hands.

One of the guards told me that they were trying to protect me from fans inside who would hurt me because I was wearing a shirt.

(The FIFA representative later apologized to me.)

An England fan wearing a rainbow shirt sits in the stands before the start of the World Cup Group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022.  (AP Photo/ Abby Parr)

An England fan wearing a rainbow shirt sits in the stands before the start of the World Cup Group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/ Abby Parr)



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