Journalist Grant Wahl Dies Suddenly at World Cup: LeBron James, Billie Jean King & More Pay Tribute

Grant Wahl
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Budweiser

Veteran soccer journalist Grant Wahl died on Friday, December 9, while covering the Argentina-Netherlands match at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. He was 48 years old.

Per the Associated Press, Wahl fell back in his seat in a press section at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar. Medical personnel treated him on site before transferring him to Hamad General Hospital in Doha, World Cup organizers said. No cause of death has been announced so far.

World Soccer Magazine columnist Keir Radnedge told CNN that Wahl’s medical crisis came toward the end of the extra time in the match. “Suddenly, colleagues up to my left started shouting for medical assistance,” Radnedge added. “Obviously, someone had collapsed.”

Radnedge added that Wahl was treated “for about 20-25 minutes” in the stadium before being moved to the hospital. “[Medical personnel] were able to, best they could, give treatment.”

In an episode of the podcast Futbol with Grant Wahl released on December 6, Wahl said that he was feeling tightness in his chest and sought medical attention at the World Cup media center, thinking bronchitis was at fault, per CNN. He received cough syrup and ibuprofen and started to feel better.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” he added. “I’ve done eight of these on the men’s side. And … I’ve gotten sick to some extent at every tournament, and it’s just about trying to find a way to get your work done.”

In a newsletter sent out on December 5, Wahl said that his body had “[broken] down” following little sleep, high stress, and an intense workload. He also said he’d had a 10-day cold that “turned into something more severe” but felt better after sleeping more and taking antibiotics.

He also made the news in November when he wore a rainbow T-shirt to a World Cup match in support of LGBTQ rights in Qatar, where homosexuality is criminalized. He said that he was detained for 25 minutes at Ahmed Bin Ali stadium in Al Rayyan before being let go.

Wahl wrote for Sports Illustrated for more than two decades before starting his own website, APreports. Radnedge explained that Wahl “really helped put soccer on the mainstream sports map in the States” and “had a strong moral compass, on where sports should be and how sport … should help set standards for people.”

Dr. Celine Grounder, an infectious disease specialist and Wahl’s wife, tweeted on Friday that she is “so thankful” for the support of his soccer family and the “many friends who’ve reached out tonight.” She also wrote that she’s in “complete shock.”

Grounder also retweeted a statement from U.S. Soccer about Wahl’s passing. “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,” the organization said in the statement. “Here in the United States, Grant’s passion for soccer and commitment to elevating its profile across our sporting landscape played a major role in helping to drive interest in and respect for our beautiful game. As important, Grant’s belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all.”

NBA star LeBron James also eulogized Wahl, who wrote a profile on James for Sports Illustrated while the basketball great was still in high school. “I’ve always kind of watched from a distance even when I moved up in ranks and became a professional, and he went to a different sport,” James said at a postgame press conference, per CNN. “Any time his name would come up I’ll always think back to me as a teenager and having Grant in our building … It’s a tragic loss.”

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