Politico

Prominent U.S. soccer journalist dies while covering World Cup

Prominent American soccer journalist Grant Wahl, who wrote about being denied entry into a U.S. World Cup game last month for wearing a rainbow shirt, collapsed and died at a Qatar stadium Friday.

Wahl, who was 48, previously worked for Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports. He was covering the marquee soccer tournament for his own website.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement, “We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Grant Wahl and send our condolences to his family, with whom we have been in close communication. We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible.”

“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,” Celine Gounder, Grant Wahl’s wife, said on Twitter.

Gounder, an infectious diseases expert, served as an adviser to President Biden on the Covid pandemic.

Wahl wrote on Monday that he visited a hospital in Qatar after his body “finally broke down” after three weeks of little sleep, high stress and a heavy workload.

“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. “I didn’t have Covid (I test regularly here), but 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.”

Wahl was initially denied entry to a stadium last month before a game between the U.S. and Wales. He said he was detained for 30 minutes for wearing a shirt that had a soccer ball surrounded by a rainbow, though he was eventually let in.

The Qatari government has cracked down on LGBTQ news coverage recently as it prepared to host the 2022 World Cup.

The U.S. Soccer team posted on Twitter stating that “Grant’s belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all.”

“The entire U.S. Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” the U.S. Soccer team said in the statement. “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.”

Wahl’s brother, Eric, said his brother “collapsed at the stadium” where Argentina were playing the Netherlands. He wrote on Instagram that he believes foul play was involved and his family has been in touch with U.S. authorities.

“I’m gay. I’m the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the World Cup,” Eric Wahl said in the post. “My brother was healthy. He told me he received death threats.”

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