American soccer journalist Grant Wahl, who was detained earlier at the 2022 FIFA World Cup after wearing a rainbow T-shirt with a soccer ball on it to a match, died while covering a match between Argentina and the Netherlands on Friday.
Wahl, an independent journalist from New York who had previously worked for Sports Illustrated for two-and-half decades as well as CBS, Fox Sports, among other outlets, was covering his eighth World Cup.
He was 48.
“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,” U.S. Soccer wrote in a statement tweeted Friday.
“As important, Grant’s belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all. Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his his brilliant writing will no longer be with us. U.S.”
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
Wahl collapsed at Lusail Iconic Stadium and was rushed to a hospital. His cause of death is unknown.
Wahl’s brother, Eric, believes foul play was involved.
“My name is Eric Wahl. I live in Seattle, Washington. I am Grant Wahl’s brother. I’m gay,” he said in a video posted to Instagram. “I’m the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the World Cup. My brother was healthy. He told me he received death threats. I do not believe my brother just died. I believe he was killed. And I just beg for any help.”
Absolutely bone chilling stuff
Soccer journalist Grant Wahl who was kicked out of a stadium in QATAR for this shirt has reportedly collapsed and passed away during the Argentina game today
His brother says on Instagram that Grant was fully healthy & believes there’s foul play pic.twitter.com/t47C2XfuVl
— JACK SETTLEMAN (@jacksettleman) December 10, 2022
Same-sex marriage and public displays of homosexuality are illegal in Qatar, though FIFA officials had spoken about the rainbow flag being allowed at the World Cup.
Wahl was detained earlier at Al Rayyan Stadium after arriving to cover Senegal-Netherlands prior to the USA-Wales match on November 21.
He says he was stopped by stadium security after noticing his rainbow T-shirt with a soccer ball on it.
“When I arrived at the stadium media entrance to cover the United States-Wales World Cup game today wearing a rainbow soccer ball T-shirt supporting the LGBTQ community, the security guards refused to let me in, detained me for 25 minutes, and angrily demanded that I remove my T-shirt,” Wahl wrote in a post about the incident. “One guard forcibly ripped my phone from my hands.”
Wahl had previously visited a medical clinic, according to his website.
“My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you,” Wahl wrote on Substack. “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 also recorded and posted his Futbol with Grant Wahl podcast on Thursday, and said he’d “been to the medical clinic at the media center twice now, including today,” after coming down with a case of bronchitis.
“It is with disbelief and immense sadness that I have been made aware of the passing of renowned sports journalist Grant Wahl, whilst reporting on a quarter-final match during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said, according to the FIFA website.
“Only some days ago, Grant was recognised by FIFA and AIPS for his contribution to reporting on eight consecutive FIFA World Cups, and his career also included attendance at several FIFA Women’s World Cups, as well as a host of other international sporting events. His love for football was immense and his reporting will be missed by all who follow the global game.
“On behalf of FIFA and the football community, we express our sincerest condolences to his wife Céline, his family, and his friends at this most difficult time.”