FOUL PLAY? Beloved sports journalist’s untimely death at World Cup raises concerning questions
The unexpected death of world-renowned soccer writer, Grant Wahl, while covering the World Cup in Doha, Qatar, is sparking calls for an investigation.
The highly respected 48-year-old sports journalist had recently celebrated a birthday and was covering the Argentina-Netherland quarterfinal when he collapsed unexpectedly in an area reserved for press members.
“Paramedics responded to the seating area where he was and performed CPR,” National Public Radio reported. “After many minutes, they took him away on a stretcher while using an automatic chest compressor to continue applying CPR.”
Tom Goldman, an NPR correspondent, was present at Lusail Stadium and witnessed the event.
U.S. Soccer released a statement on the untimely death of the Fox Sports commentator.
“The entire U.S. Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” they wrote. “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.”
Read the entire statement below.
The victim’s brother, Eric Wahl, confirmed the death of the beloved journalist in an Instagram post.
“He collapsed at the stadium, was given CPR, was taken by Uber to hospital, and died according to Celine,” he wrote. “We just spoke to the state department and Celine has spoken to Ron Klain and the White House.”
Less than three weeks ago, Grant Wahl was refused entry to the World Cup stadium for wearing a rainbow shirt. The sports writer posted about the incident 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.” pic.twitter.com/TvSGThMYq8
— Subscribe to GrantWahl.com (@GrantWahl) November 21, 2022
Homosexuality is banned in Qatar. Those discovered to have violated the oppressive country’s law against same-sex relations can be jailed.
Wahl was reportedly detained for a brief time after being prevented from entering the stadium.
The longtime Sports Illustrated contributor told his brother Eric, that he’d been on the receiving end of death threats since wearing the shirt – but he remained in Doha to cover the World Cup.
On Monday, Wahl fell ill and shared details on his substack account, Fútbol with Grant Wahl.
“My body finally broke down on me,” Wahl wrote. “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,” NPR shared.
Shortly afterward, he collapsed and unfortunately passed away.
In an emotional video posted to his Instagram page, Eric Wahl alleges that what happened was not a coincidence but murder — punishment for wearing the rainbow shirt. It’s something that Grant – who is straight – did in a show of solidarity and support for his brother who’s a member of the LGBTQ community.
“My brother was healthy,” he said. “I do not believe my brother just died. I believe he was killed.”
Eric Wahl, the brother of sportswriter Grant Wahl who died in Qatar while covering the World Cup, is asking for help.
Grant was detained in Qatar for wearing a rainbow shirt two weeks ago pic.twitter.com/lak0b1UZwa
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) December 10, 2022
News of Wahl’s death spread quickly, sending shockwaves through the world of sports and journalism. With nearly a quarter-century of sports journalism to his credit, Mr. Wahl was popular among sports fans and his peers.
Qatar has a history of human rights abuses, and FIFA’s decision to hold the World Cup in a country under such an oppressive regime has been widely criticized.
The international soccer federation has been quiet on the news of Wahl’s death but has previously sided with the Qatari government on the issue of wearing rainbow clothing, going so far as to threaten teams who display rainbows with yellow card penalties.
Wahl’s wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, expressed gratitude for the outpouring of love and support for her husband.
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. https://t.co/OB3IzOxGlE
— Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA 🇺🇦 (@celinegounder) December 10, 2022
Gounder and Eric Wahl have been in contact with federal officials to ensure Grant’s body is properly secured and accompanied by an American citizen.
Eric had cast doubt on the true nature of his brother’s illness right before his death.
“I spoke with Grant just the other day for his birthday,” he wrote on social media.”He thought he’d caught bronchitis. I no longer believe that’s what it was. Grant told me he’d received death threats. His phone better be among his things at Hamad hospital.”
Grant Wahl, who got his start at the Miami Herald as an intern in the mid-nineties, will be missed.
Read U.S. Soccer’s statement below.
U.S. Soccer Statement On The Passing Of Grant Wahl: pic.twitter.com/CBp1mCK1mQ
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) December 10, 2022
Original reporting by Russell Lewis at NPR.
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