Journalist and LGBTQ+ advocate dies at Qatar World Cup. His brother says he was killed

Sports journalist Grant Wahl typing on a laptop in the spacious media center of the Qatar World Cup.

US sports journalist and LGBTQ+ ally Grant Wahl has died while covering the Qatar World Cup.

The Meadowlark Media correspondent died shortly following the Argentina-Netherlands game on Friday (9 December) in Doha, Qatar.

According to early reports from NPR, Wahl collapsed during post-match gatherings. Paramedics responded by performing CPR, eventually carrying him away on a stretcher.

His death at just 48 years old was confirmed a few hours after in a statement from both the US Soccer Twitter page and his wife, Céline Gounder, who wrote that she was “in complete shock.”

A day prior, Wahl had mentioned during an episode of his podcast that he had visited a medical clinic and was told he may have had bronchitis.

“My body finally broke down on me,” Wahl said. “Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you.

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“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.”

His brother, Eric Wahl said in an emotional clip posted on Instagram that he believed Grant was healthy and that, while reporting on the World Cup, Grant had “received death threats.”

“I do not believe my brother just died,” Eric Wahl said. “I believe he was killed, and I just beg for any help.”

He added that Grant was one of the most sincere people he’d ever known, adding: “He was especially concerned about people whose rights were being violated… and he just wanted to share his love of soccer with others.”

Tributes from fans and colleagues who knew Grant Wahl

In its statement, a US Soccer spokesperson said the organisation was “heartbroken” to learn of Wahl’s death.

“Grant’s belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all,” it read. “We are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us.”

Freelance journalist Katelyn Burns said she was “devastated” after hearing about the loss, adding: “I’ve read his stuff for literally decades.”

Reporter at The Athletic Adam Crafton said that Wahl was a “publicly brave ally, as well as a courageous and sensitive journalist,” while adding that, outside of his work in the industry, he was “such a kind and supportive person.”

Additionally, Rolling Stone reporter Nikki McCann Ramirez honoured Wahl by listing off just a few of his notable accomplishments and campaigns in journalism.

Sports Illustrated fired him for challenging their pay cuts during the pandemic, he ran to unseat FIFA’s president, he challenged human rights abuses in Qatar.

“RIP Grant Wahl, who’s career was as much about great reporting as it was about speaking truth to abusive power.”

Grant Wahl was refused entry to Qatar match due to LGBTQ+ shirt

In the midst of the controversy surrounding the Qatar World Cup and the country’s awful track record on LGBTQ+ rights, Wahl made efforts to show his support for the queer community.

Wahl was refused entry to the USA-Wales game on 21 November for wearing a rainbow t-shirt to signal his support for LGBTQ+ people.

In a tweet, Wahl had reported that a security guard was refusing to let him in while saying: “You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed.”

He later clarified that he had managed to reach the media centre with his shirt intact, but that it was “an unnecessary ordeal.”

“Go gays,” he added.

Grant Wahl stands infront of a red back drop with the Qatar World Cup logo written across it, while holding a miniature replica of the World Cup trophy, wearing a black blazer.
Grant Wahl received a replica World Cup trophy after covering his eighth World Cup. (Getty)

A spokesperson for the Qatari Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, who are responsible for planning the Qatar World Cup, told BBC: “Grant was known for his enormous love of football and was in Qatar to cover his eight FIFA World Cup.”

“We are in touch with the US embassy and relevant local authorities to ensure the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the family’s wishes.”

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