Stadium security and members of the public asked American and Welsh fans to hide rainbow-themed items from public view, fans said, in official areas and in the subway. In some cases, fans said they were refused entry to matches unless they removed the rainbow emblems, although others said they were able to take the symbol of the ‘rainbow in the stadiums without problem.
Former Welsh professional footballer Laura McAllister he tweeted that she was refused entry to a FIFA stadium by security officials on Monday because she was wearing a rainbow-themed supporters hat. McAllister said officials told him the rainbow symbol was banned, according to an interview with ITV News.
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“When we went through security, some of the security guards said we had to take off the hat. When I asked them why, they said ‘because it was a forbidden symbol and we weren’t allowed to wear it in the stadium,'” he said. “They were insistent that unless I took off my hat, we were not allowed to enter the stadium.” He was eventually able to enter by hiding the hat.
In a separate incident before the same match, American football writer Grant Wahl said he was stopped by a security guard for wearing a shirt with a rainbow on it. Wahl later said that he was detained for half an hour in “a pointless test”, but finally allowed to the stadium. “Go gay,” he he wrote on Twitter with a rainbow emoji, share an image of the shirt.
According to the guidance shared by FIFA last week, football fans have been warned that they are free to express their identity in the official areas of the tournament without repercussions. “There is no risk; they are welcome to express themselves; they are welcome to express their love for their partners,” Gerdine Lindhout, FIFA’s head of fan experience, told ITV News Wednesday. “They won’t get in trouble for public displays of affection.”
It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether the body’s guidance on rainbow symbols had changed or if the policy had been unevenly enforced in the opening days of the tournament.
At the time, FIFA clarified that its guidance did not apply to areas outside the official tournament zones, where the rules are less clear.
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On Monday, soccer fan Justin Martin said he was confronted several times by fellow subway passengers while also traveling to the Wales-USA match carrying a small rainbow flag, including two men who wore official FIFA volunteer uniforms. Five people asked him to remove the symbol from view during the subway ride in total, Justin Martin told the Washington Post in a telephone interview, and one passenger was physically shaken when he refused to hide the flag.
Martin, a journalism professor who lives in Qatar, said he does not identify as LGBTQ but wore the symbol as a show of support for marginalized groups when he was repeatedly asked to remove it by other passengers.
“I was standing on the train with the emblem in my hand, with my phone. I was approached by two young FIFA volunteers in brown T-shirts that said ‘volunteer’ on the back and they encouraged me to put the flag to respect local culture. When he refused, Martin says one of the apparent volunteers became agitated and described him as “disgusted.”
Minutes later, Martin said, another angry passenger again asked him to remove the small emblem, becoming even more agitated and using his body to intimidate Martin when he refused. “He physically came into my space and I was pushed against the door of the train,” Martin told the Post, which said the person then followed him around the subway car while filming him.
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A football fan who witnessed the exchange confirmed Martin’s account of the altercation to the Post in a separate interview.
Two other members of the public also approached Martin while he was traveling to ask him to remove the symbol, Martin added.
“I’m sad. I’m afraid to bring my emblem to the USA-England match on Friday,” he said. “It doesn’t make me feel good,” he added, also emphasizing that the experience of feeling unsafe was not representative of his wider experiences of Qatar.
Neither FIFA nor Qatari officials immediately responded to a request from The Post on Tuesday to clarify what guidelines were in place for fans wishing to display the rainbow symbol in either official tournament areas or elsewhere in the Persian Gulf state, where sex between men is illegal.
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The reports add to the existing pressure on FIFA over its management of LGBTQ rights and expressions of support for the community during the tournament, during which the rainbow has become a particularly fraught symbol.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken directly criticized the body’s decision to punish World Cup soccer players with yellow cards if they wear rainbow-themed armbands in support of diversity and inclusion – saying that puts the world’s athletes in an impossible position. Two yellow cards result in the expulsion of a player from the match.
The decision prompted seven European World Cup captains, those from England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark, to throw out “OneLove” wristbands showing solidarity with LGBTQ people.
“It is always worrying from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression; It is especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” said Blinken in a joint press conference in the capital, Doha , alongside the Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.
“No one on a football field should be forced to choose between upholding these values and playing for their team,” Blinken said.
John Hudson in Doha contributed to this report.
World Cup in Qatar
Live Updates: The World Cup continues in Qatar on Tuesday with four matches that include one of the greatest players in history and the reigning champion who begins his title defense. Follow our live coverage, analysis and highlights.
USMNT: In their return to the World Cup, the young Americans settled for a 1-1 draw against Wales in their Group B. The US men’s national team will face a higher task on Friday against Group B favorite England, who demolished Iran, 6-2, earlier on Monday.
Qatar controversy: Soccer fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusivity, said they were refused entry to World Cup stadiums and confronted by members of the public for removing the emblem, despite assurances from FIFA, soccer’s governing body, that visitors will be allowed in freely. express their identity during the tournament in Qatar. Qatari officials have arbitrarily arrested and mistreated LGBT people, in some cases in the past month, according to Human Rights Watch.
Group guide: The United States men’s national soccer team, led by coach Gregg Berhalter and star forward Christian Pulisic, has qualified for the 2022 World Cup, an improvement on its disastrous and unsuccessful 2018 campaign. Here’s a close look at how all the teams in each group are separated.