American journalist Grant Wahl has died while covering the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He was 48 years old.
Wahl, who covered American and world soccer on his Substack, CBS Sports, NBC News and previously worked for Sports Illustrated, was ‘healthy’ before he collapsed during a game Friday, according to brother Eric in an Instagram video he posted.
His agent, Tim Scanlan, told the New York Times that Wahl had gone into acute distress in the final minutes of a quarterfinal match, which he was covering from the press tribune.
US media seated near him said Wahl fell back in his seat in the media tribune at Lusail Iconic Stadium during extra time and reporters adjacent to him called for assistance. Emergency services workers responded very quickly, the reporters said, and the reporters later were told that Wahl had died.
Eric, who is gay, said through tears that he believes his brother – who had been detained before the United States’ tournament opener against Wales for wearing a rainbow flag shirt – may have been killed.
Wahl said: ‘I am the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the world cup. I do not believe my brother just died, I believe he was killed.’
Rafael Cores, a journalist for Univision who was sitting next to Wahl at the match, wrote: I’m in shock. I was sitting next to him tonight. He was working on his story on his laptop, it was about 4 minutes before the end of the extra time. He was laughing at a joke we saw on Twitter only minutes earlier. I can’t believe it. My deepest condolences to Grant Wahl’s family.’
Grant Wahl had spoken about feeling under the weather in an episode of his podcast – Futbol with Grant Wahl – recorded Thursday.
He said on the podcast: ‘My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you. What had been a cold over the last 10 days turned into something more severe on the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort.’
Wahl wrote that he tested negative for COVID-19 and sought treatment for his symptoms.
‘I went into the medical clinic at the main media center today, and they said I probably have bronchitis. They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I’m already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno,’ he wrote.
American journalist Grant Wahl has died while covering the 2022 World Cup in Qatar , according to a video posted by his brother Friday evening
Wahl’s brother Eric stated in the comments of the Instagram post that his brother’s wife – Dr. Celine Gounder, who worked on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team – has been in touch with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain.
A U.S. State Department spokesman told DailyMail.com: ‘We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Grant Wahl, and we send our condolences to his family, with whom we have been in close communication. We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see that his family’s wishes for his remains are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible.’
‘When a U.S. citizen dies abroad, the Department provides all appropriate consular assistance to the family and friends. Our consular staff at the U.S. embassy in Qatar are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide consular assistance to U.S. citizens during the World Cup.’
‘We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible,’ said Price.
Gounder tweeted Friday night: ‘I am so thankful for the support of my husband @GrantWahl’s soccer family & of so many friends who’ve reached out tonight. I’m in complete shock.’
Grant Wahl’s last tweet came just hours earlier, when he described the tying goal the Netherlands had scored against Argentina in their World Cup quarterfinal match, which he was in attendance for.
Wahl wrote this week that he had been among 82 journalists honored by FIFA and the international sports press association AIPS for attending eight or more World Cups.
FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A 1996 graduate of Princeton, Wahl worked for Sports Illustrated from 1996 to 2021, known primarily for his coverage of soccer and college basketball. He then launched his own website.
Wahl also worked for Fox Sports from 2012-19.
Wahl’s wife, former Biden White House COVID advisor Dr. Celine Gounder, tweeted Friday night: ‘I am so thankful for the support of my husband @GrantWahl’s soccer family & of so many friends who’ve reached out tonight. I’m in complete shock.’
Gounder on a COVID health briefing with Biden and former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on October 28, 2020
Wahl was attending the USA’s first game of the tournament against Wales on Monday and wore a black t-shirt with a circle in the colors of the rainbow wrapping around a soccer ball, in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
He took to Twitter to claim that he was initially refused entry to the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan. He also revealed that shortly after sending out his first tweet, security staff ‘forcibly ripped his phone from his hands.’
Wahl’s account was met with widespread condemnation on social media.
Dr Nayef bin Nahar, a director of social sciences at Qatar University, had an alternative view.
Retweeting Wahl, he said: ‘As a Qatari I’m proud of what happened.
‘I don’t know when will the westerners realize that their values aren’t universal. There are other cultures with different values that should be equally respected.
‘Let’s not forget that the West is not the spokesperson for humanity.’
American soccer reporter Wahl claimed he was refused entry to a World Cup stadium in Qatar for wearing a rainbow t-shirt ahead of the US’s opener against Wales Monday
The USA kickstarts its campaign at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan at 2pm ET
According to Qatar university’s website, Bin Naharis director of humanities and social sciences.
He apparently has seven books, one of which is called ‘Introduction to International Relations’.
The World Cup in Qatar has faced criticism for ‘sportswashing’ due to the host nation’s poor human rights record, in particular the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.
In Qatar, male homosexuality is punishable by a prison sentence and same-sex marriages are not recognized by the government.
As recently as this month, a Qatar World Cup ambassador told a German TV broadcaster that homosexuality was ‘damage to the mind’, and it remains illegal to be gay in the conservative Muslim country.
Wahl was attending his native USA’s first World Cup game against Wales, and wrote on social media: ‘Just now: Security guard refusing to let me into the stadium for USA-Wales. ‘You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed.”
Around 50 minutes later he posted again to reassure fans and social media users, revealing that he had been detained for almost half an hour.
He added: ‘I’m OK, but that was an unnecessary ordeal. Am in the media center, still wearing my shirt. Was detained for nearly half an hour. Go gays.’
Wahl later revealed that he was finally granted entry to the media center after being detained for almost half an hour and reassured social media users that he was okay
A security guard reportedly told Wahl that his shirt was ‘political’ and therefore not allowed, while another refused to return the phone.
Wahl revealed that Andrew Das, a New York Times reporter, walked past and was detained too after Wahl informed him what was happening.
Das was eventually let go, while Wahl was questioned if he was from the UK to which he informed them he was from New York.
A security commander eventually arrived on the scene and apologized to Wahl before letting him go. Wahl said that a FIFA official also apologized.
Wahl’s tweet came amid yet another scandal to hit the tournament after FIFA revealed that team captains could face a booking and potential suspension if they go through with their decision to wear the OneLove rainbow armband in a mark of solidarity for the LGBT+ community.
The US made its own huge statement last week as it redesigned its crest to incorporate the rainbow flag, in a bid to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
The USMNT appear to have made an immediate stand on their arrival in Doha, though, by changing the usual red stripes on their crest to a rainbow around their team base.
Pictures from the Al Gharrafa SC Stadium in Al Rayyan, where the US team trained on last Monday, showed a huge US crest on the wall, alongside the slogan ‘One Nation’.
The US national team crest has been changed from its usual red to rainbow colors last week
Before the switch, the stripes in the flag were all red – but now they are rainbow colors
It is understood the crest on the team’s kits on the field won’t be changed, but the new colors will be shown off at their practice facilities.
Neil Buethe, the USMNT’s Chief Communications Officer, told DailyMail.com: ‘Our rainbow badge has an important and consistent role in the identity of U.S. Soccer.
‘As part of our approach for any match or event, we include rainbow branding to support and embrace the LGBTQ community, as well as to promote a spirit of inclusiveness and welcoming to all fans across the globe.
‘As a result, locations that we will manage and operate at the FIFA World Cup, such as the team hotel, media areas and parties, will feature both traditional and rainbow U.S. Soccer branding.’
Wahl was a longtime Sports Illustrated writer before going independent the past few years and selling subscriptions to his website, where he covered worldwide soccer with an extra emphasis on the U.S. national teams and leagues.
He previously was a contributor to Fox Sports’ soccer coverage.
U.S. Soccer posted a statement on Twitter that read in part, ‘The entire U.S. Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl. Fans of soccer and journalism of the highest quality knew we could always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game, and its major protagonists: teams, players, coaches and the many personalities that make soccer unlike any sport.’
MLS commissioner Don Garber tweeted, ‘We are shocked, saddened and heartbroken over the tragic passing of Grant Wahl. He was a kind and caring person whose passion for soccer and dedication to journalism were immeasurable.’
The National Women’s Soccer League issued a statement that read in part, ‘We are heartbroken by the news of Grant Wahl’s death. His commitment to sharing the stories of our beautiful game was unmatched, but more importantly, his integrity, thoughtfulness and kindness were central to the way he lived.’