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Fact check: False claim that Qatar rejected German plane for LGBTQ symbol

The claim: Qatar 'refused to receive' the German soccer team's plane due to LGBTQ symbol

Since the 2022 World Cup began last month, soccer fans have been criticizing Qatar, the host of this year's tournament, for its treatment of the LGBTQ community, which includes laws forbidding gay sex.

Now, some social media users say Qatar denied entry to German players because of an LGBTQ symbol on the team's aircraft.

"Qatar refuses to receive the German national team’s plane, which bears the g@y logo, which forced them to return the plane to the airport of the Sultanate of Oman, and it was replaced by another plane that did not bear any logo," reads a Nov. 21 Instagram post (direct link, archived link). "I am not partial to this country ... but honestly, hats off in respect for this Muslim country."

The post features a picture of a Lufthansa aircraft that has been used by Germany to transport its team. The plane is emblazoned with the phrases "Diversity Wins" and "Fanhansa," the name the company has given to the aircraft used by the team. The plane is also decorated with an image of people of different ethnicities locked arm-in-arm.

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The post generated more than 800 likes in less than a week.

But the claim is baseless.

The aircraft flew the German team to Oman, according to statements from Lufthansa and the German Football Association. The team then took a direct, regional flight from Oman to Qatar because of traffic permit and efficiency issues. The flight was not diverted or denied by Qatar authorities.

In addition, while the plane is decorated with words and images promoting diversity, it does not bear a specific gay symbol on the outside of the aircraft.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.

Team plane never diverted

It is not true that Qatar refused to receive the German team's Lufthansa plane, Martin Leutke, a Lufthansa spokesman, told USA TODAY in email.

Germany's team flew from Frankfurt, Germany, to Muscat, Oman, for a training camp on Nov. 14 aboard the Lufthansa plane, an Airbus A330-343, according to a tweet from Lufthansa. The team then took a regional flight from Muscat to Doha, Qatar, because of efficiency issues, according to a statement from DFB, the German Football Association.

"An onward flight with Lufthansa would mean empty flights from Germany to Muscat and back from Doha," the association said in the statement. "DFB and Lufthansa jointly decided in advance for this variant of the journey."

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Boris Ogursky also told USA TODAY that the third-party flight traveled on a route that Lufthansa could not fly since the airline does not have traffic rights for connections between Oman and Qatar.

Flight records of the team's Lufthansa plane obtained from Flightradar24, a live flight tracker website, also show that the plane never diverted from its route on Nov. 14. It landed in Muscat at 11:23 p.m. local time.

"The aircraft has not diverted," Ian Petchenik, a spokesperson for Flightradar, told USA TODAY in an email. "The flight to Oman was a planned flight by the German football team to training camp."

The plane also landed in Doha on multiple occasions after that, such as on Nov. 18, Nov. 19 and Nov. 23.

The Associated Press and AFP Fact Check also debunked this claim.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Qatar "refused to receive" the German soccer team’s plane due to an LGBTQ symbol. The aircraft flew the German team to Oman for a training camp, according to official statements from Lufthansa and the German Football Association. The team then took a direct, regional flight from Oman to Qatar for the tournament because of traffic permit and efficiency issues. Qatar never rejected the plane, and there were no diversions made.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim Qatar rejected German plane with LGBTQ symbol