Prominent American soccer journalist Grant Wahl, known for his work at Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and Fox Sports, has died, U.S. Soccer announced Friday. He was 49.
Wahl was covering the World Cup quarterfinal between Argentina and the Netherlands in Qatar when he collapsed.
“The entire U.S. Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” the federation said in a 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.”
U.S. Soccer Statement On The Passing Of Grant Wahl: pic.twitter.com/CBp1mCK1mQ
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) December 10, 2022
A graduate of Princeton, Wahl began his career with the Miami Herald in 1996. Throughout a career that spanned more than 25 years, Wahl covered multiple World Cups and Olympic Games. In 2009, he wrote the bestseller “The Beckham Experiment.” On Monday, Wahl was among a group of 82 journalists who were honored for covering eight or more men’s World Cups.
FIFA honored Wahl by placing flowers and his photo on the desk he would have used to cover Saturday’s game between England and France.
FIFA officials have paid tribute to Grant Wahl by placing flowers & a photo of him on the desk he would have used to cover England v France tonight. The US journalist, who turned 48 on Thursday, collapsed while reporting on Argentina v Netherlands last night and tragically died. pic.twitter.com/AnADDkro4T
— David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein) December 10, 2022
Ryan Hunt, co-editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated, said his heart was “unspeakably heavy” after hearing about Wahl’s death.
“Grant loved soccer, he was passionate about his work and telling stories,” he tweeted. “He cared deeply; it was his greatest attribute. More than that, Grant was a friend with whom I just loved to talk soccer. In total shock.”
MLS commissioner Don Garber also offered the league’s condolences.
“He was a kind and caring person whose passion for soccer and dedication to journalism were immeasurable,” he said on Twitter.
D.C. United manager Wayne Rooney passed on “condolences to Grant’s family, friends and all his professional colleagues at this difficult time,” he said via Twitter on Saturday.
“His contribution to the development of football in the United States has been absolutely immense over the years,” Rooney added.
Tennis champion Billie Jean King extended “prayers for (Wahl’s) family” in a tweet extolling the journalist as “an advocate for the LGBTQ community and a prominent voice for women’s soccer.”
LeBron James, who Wahl profiled for a Sports Illustrated cover story in February 2002, spoke highly of Wahl when asked about the reporter following a game against the 76ers on Friday.
“I’m very fond of Grant and having that cover shoot — me being a teenager and him covering that, it was a pretty cool thing. And he was always pretty cool to be around. He spent a lot of time in my hometown of Akron covering me over the course of time before that cover story came out,” James said.
“I’ve always kind of watched from a distance. Even when I moved up in the ranks and became a professional and he kind of went to a different sport and things of that nature over the years, anytime his name would come up I would always think back to me as a teenager and having Grant in our building down at St. V. So, it’s a tragic loss. It’s unfortunate to lose someone as great as he was and I wish his family, like I said, the best. And may he rest in paradise.”
Wahl’s wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, said on Twitter that she was in “complete shock” while thanking her husband’s soccer family for the support.
The U.S. State Department has been in “close communication” with Wahl’s family, according to spokesman Ned Price.
“We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible,” Price tweeted.
Earlier in the tournament, Wahl tweeted about his experience with stadium security, saying he was detained for 30 minutes because he was wearing a rainbow shirt in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Same-sex relations are illegal in Qatar. Wahl, who was covering the tournament for CBS Sports, later tweeted that he was eventually allowed to enter the stadium wearing the shirt.
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 🌈 https://t.co/S3INBoCz89
— Subscribe to GrantWahl.com (@GrantWahl) November 21, 2022
We kindly ask that, out of respect for Grant’s family and friends, that readers leave tributes or condolences in the comments section of this story but refrain from speculating on his health prior to his passing. The Athletic will update readers when we have a full picture and the family’s permission to discuss personal details.
More on the life and career of Grant Wahl:
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated the incorrect age for Wahl. He was 49, not 48.
(Photo: Fred Kfoury III /Icon Sportswire /Corbis / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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