ALL NEWS

Soccer fans stopped by security for wearing rainbow-colored items

Nov 26, 2022, 6:22 PM | Updated: Nov 28, 2022, 10:56 am
On Saturday, two German soccer fans told CNN that they were asked by security officials at Qatar 20...
FILE - In this file photo dated June 17, 1986, Michel Platini, left, of France dribbles past Italian forward Alessandro Altobelli in their World Cup eight finals in Mexico City's Azteca Stadium. France won 2-0 to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament and Italy was eliminated. Affectionately nicknamed “Le Roi” (The King), Michel Platini bestrode the soccer field with inimitable elegance as the world’s best player of the early 1980s, but his lofty reputation seems to have been tainted. (AP Photo, FILE)
(AP Photo, FILE)

(CNN) — The World Cup is well underway in Qatar, but issues surrounding LGBTQ+ rights for the Gulf state, world soccer governing body FIFA, teams and fans just won’t go away.

On Saturday, two German soccer fans told CNN that they were asked by security officials at Qatar 2022 to remove the rainbow-colored items that they were wearing as they made their way to watch the World Cup match between France and Denmark on Saturday.

CNN witnessed the conclusion to the incident at the Msheireb Metro Station, in Doha, as Bengt Kunkel, who was wearing a rainbow-colored sweatband and his friend — sporting a similarly colored armband — refused to hand over the items. The rainbow is a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride.

After taking the Germans to one side, a group of security guards eventually let them go — on condition that they put the rainbow-colored items in their pockets, according to Kunkel.

“Out of nowhere. They took my friend quite aggressively on the arm and pushed him away from the crowd and told him to take it [the armband] off,” Kunkel told CNN, as he recounted details of the incident shortly after it happened.

“Then they took me with him. They said: ‘You’re going to take it off and throw it in the bin or we’ll call the police.'”

The pair refused to throw their items in the bin and said they told security they could call the police.

“We had a little discussion, we were being respectful and said: ‘We’re not going to throw it away but we’re going to put it in our pockets’,” added Kunkel, who travelled to the World Cup to enjoy the soccer tournament, but also to use his social media platform to talk about LGBTQ+ issues and Qatar 2022.

Kunkel and his friend were then allowed to walk down to the station platform where CNN accompanied them to the match. Kunkel’s friend said he didn’t want to talk to CNN.

Once outside Stadium 974, Kunkel put the rainbow-colored armband and wristband back on and walked through security.

CNN witnessed Kunkel being allowed through, though the 23-year-old German was again taken to one side.

Kunkel then told CNN he was stopped four more times before being allowed to take his seat inside the stadium wearing the rainbow-colored items.

Earlier this week, American journalist Grant Wahl and former Wales captain Laura McAllister both said they were told by security staff to remove clothing with rainbow-colored patterns.

Wahl said he was released 25 minutes after being detained and received apologies from a FIFA representative and a senior member of the security team at the stadium.

When asked to clarify the dress code for fans, FIFA referred CNN to the tournament handbook, which states “expats and tourists are free to wear the clothing of their choice, as long as it is modest and respectful to the culture.”

After some Wales fans were also denied entry into stadiums for wearing rainbow-colored bucket hats on Monday, the Welsh Football Association (FAW) said FIFA told the federation on Thursday that rainbow-colored flags and hats would be permitted at World Cup stadiums in Qatar.

“In response to the FAW, FIFA has confirmed that fans with Rainbow Wall bucket hats and rainbow flags will be allowed entry to the stadium for @Cymru’s match against Iran on Friday,” it tweeted.

“All World Cup venues have been contacted and instructed to follow the agreed rules & regulations.”

However, Kunkel’s experience on Saturday would seem to suggest that there remains a disconnect between FIFA’s rules and regulations and what is happening on the ground at Qatar 2022.

CNN reached out to FIFA and Qatar’s organizing committee. FIFA referred CNN to Qatar’s organizing committee, which hadn’t replied at the time of publication.

The 23-year-old Kunkel, who is a student sports journalist back in Germany, has been in Qatar with three friends since just before the World Cup kicked off and says he has already had rainbow-colored items confiscated.

Kunkel said he was removed from his seat at the Al Thumana Stadium during Senegal’s game against the Netherlands on Monday and told to take off the items.

On that occasion security threw them in the bin and Kunkel was allowed back to his seat.

“It’s quite a statement to throw a rainbow flag in the garbage,” added Kunkel.

“I’m not part of the LGBTQ community myself, but I can understand those who don’t want to come here [Qatar] because people of the community are being oppressed.”

Kunkel’s trip to Qatar has made headlines in Germany and he met German Interior and Community Minister Nancy Faeser in Doha this week.

Faeser wore the “OneLove” armband, which features the outline of a heart striped in different colors, with FIFA President Gianni Infantino sitting close by during her country’s 2-1 defeat against Japan.

Since the World Cup kicked off, FIFA has found itself at loggerheads with seven European nations playing at Qatar 2022 over the threat of sanctions for any player wearing a “OneLove” armband during games.

Kunkel says he is unhappy that FIFA allowed Qatar to host the World Cup in a country where sex between men is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison.

The 23-year-old says both Faeser and the German Football Association (DFB) have been supportive of his actions and that the DFB even provided him with more rainbow items after his were confiscated.

Ahead of its game against Japan earlier this week, Germany’s team posed with their right hands in front of their mouths designed as a protest to FIFA’s decision to ban the “OneLove” armband that many European captains had been hoping to wear in Qatar.

Although supportive of that protest, Kunkel says more can be done.

“The German FA talks a lot about the rights of the LGBTQ community but whenever they fear consequences they seem to back off and I think that’s a little bit sad,” said Kunkel, who returns to Germany on Monday.

Kunkel says he is passionate about using his platform in Qatar to raise awareness, adding that although he’s received a mixed response online, he was congratulated multiple times by fellow fans walking into Saturday’s game.

“I want to be a voice,” said Kunkel, who earlier this week posted a picture of himself on Instagram from Qatar displaying a rainbow-colored sweatband in front of his face, which he had painted with the German flag with a message saying: “Take a stand, be seen, participate in change. Awesome feeling.”

Qatar’s organizing committee, meanwhile, has previously promised to host “an inclusive and discriminatory-free” World Cup in the face of Western criticism regarding its anti-LGBTQ laws — criticism Infantino, speaking generally about Qatar’s human rights record, slammed as “hypocritical” ahead of the tournament.

“It’s so annoying they do this,” Kunkel told CNN. “This isn’t a political issue, it’s basic human rights.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Suspected arsonist appears on surveillance footage lighting Molotov cocktail in front of Temple Ner...
Celina Tebor, Isa Kaufman-Geballe and Zoe Sottile, CNN

Man throws Molotov cocktail at New Jersey synagogue in arson attempt, police say

A man threw a Molotov cocktail at a New Jersey synagogue in an arson attempt on Sunday morning, police and the synagogue said.
18 hours ago
donald trump...
Kate Sullivan, Gabby Orr and Kristen Holmes, CNN

Trump says he’s ‘more angry’ and ‘more committed’ to White House bid as he breaks his campaign trail hiatus

Former President Donald Trump said he's "more committed" to winning back the White House as he hit the campaign trail after announcing a third presidential bid.
18 hours ago
Atlanta Police Officers watch as protesters march during a rally against the fatal police assault o...
Nouran Salahieh, CNN

Protesters across the US decry police brutality after Tyre Nichols’ death

Protesters took to the streets to decry police brutality after the release of video depicting the violent beating that led to the death of Tyre Nichols.
18 hours ago
A hiring sign is displayed in the window of a Panera Bread store in Pittsburgh on Monday, Jan. 23, ...
Paul R. La Monica, CNN

Jobs report to give further clues about where economy is headed

Economists predict that 185,000 jobs were added last month, a slowdown from the gain of 223,000 jobs in December and 263,000 in November.
18 hours ago
Sanpete Co Fatal...
Waverly Golden

Three vehicle crash in Sanpete County leaves one dead

One person is dead following a three vehicle crash in Sanpete County around 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 28.
2 days ago
Tyre Nichols Protests...
Nouran Salahieh, Jamiel Lynch, Chuck Johnston, Shawn Nottingham, Andy Rose and Phil Gast, CNN

More protests today after release of video depicting the deadly police beating of Tyre Nichols

Protesters across the US heldmarches & rallies on Saturday, one day after the release of video showing the police beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Soccer fans stopped by security for wearing rainbow-colored items