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LeBron James and Billie Jean King are among those paying tribute to American journalist Grant Wahl.

LeBron James and Billie Jean King are among those paying tribute to American journalist Grant Wahl.

LeBron James and Billie Jean King are among those paying tribute to American journalist Grant Wahl.

CNN — The death of prominent journalist Grant Wahl at the World Cup in Qatar has sparked outpourings of shock and grief across the sports world, with NBA star LeBron James and tennis legend Billie Jean King leading the tributes to the American.

Grant Wahl, a prominent American journalist, died in Qatar after collapsing while covering the Cup Final, eliciting shock and grief across the sports world.

Wahl’s death was described as “heartbreaking” by King.

“A talented journalist, Grant was an advocate for the LGBTQ community and a prominent voice for women’s soccer,” King tweeted on Saturday. “He used his platform to elevate those whose stories needed to be told.” “Prayers for his family.”

On Friday in Philadelphia, basketball star LeBron James said he was “very fond of Grant.” When James was in high school, Wahl did a cover story for Sports Illustrated.

Grant Wahl was born on October 10, 2014. The Men’s National Team of the United States and the Men’s National Team of Ecuador drew 1-1 in an international friendly at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Grant Wahl, an American journalist, died after collapsing during the World Cup in Qatar.
“I’ve always kind of watched from a distance, even when I moved up in the ranks and became a professional, and he went to a different sport,” James said at a postgame press conference. “Every time his name comes up, I remember being a teenager and having Grant in our building… It’s a tragic loss.”

 

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Tyler Adams, captain of the United States men’s national soccer team, which was knocked out of the World Cup in the last 16 by the Netherlands, expressed his “deepest sympathy” to Wahl’s wife, Celine Gounder, and those who knew him.

“As players, we have a tremendous amount of respect for the work of journalists, and Grant’s was a giant voice in soccer that has tragically fallen silent,” Adams wrote on Twitter.

The World Cup organizers in Qatar said on Saturday that Wahl “fell ill” in the press area and received “immediate medical treatment on site.”

He was then transferred to Hamad General Hospital, according to a spokesperson for the Supreme Court Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the body in charge of organizing the tournament.

Grant Wahl at an awards ceremony in Doha, Qatar, in November of this year.
Grant Wahl at an awards ceremony in Doha, Qatar, in November of this year.
FIFA/AP
Wahl was treated in the stadium “for about 20-25 minutes” before being taken to the hospital, according to Keir Radnedge, a World Soccer Magazine columnist.

“This was near the end of extra time in the game.” Suddenly, colleagues to my left began shouting for medical assistance. Someone had clearly collapsed. “Because the chairs are freestanding, people were able to move them, allowing us to create a little bit of space around him,” Radnedge explained.

He went on to say that the medical team arrived “pretty quickly and were able to provide treatment as best they could.”

‘I’m shocked and devastated.’
“Only a few days ago, Grant was recognized by FIFA and AIPS (the International Sports Press Association) for his contribution to reporting on eight consecutive FIFA World Cups,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino in a statement.

The co-editors in chief of Sports Illustrated, where Wahl spent the majority of his career, issued a joint statement saying they were “shocked and devastated by the news of Grant’s passing.”

“We were proud to call him a colleague and friend for two decades – no writer in the history of (Sports Illustrated) has been more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell,” the statement said.

Wahl joined the publication in November 1996, it said. He volunteered to cover the sport as a junior reporter before it reached the heights of global popularity it now enjoys, eventually becoming “one of the most respected soccer authorities in the world,” according to the statement.

Wahl also worked with other media outlets, including Fox Sports, according to the statement. After leaving Sports Illustrated in 2020, he started his podcast and newsletter.

According to US journalist Grant Wahl, he was detained in Qatar for wearing a rainbow shirt.
According to a US journalist, he was initially denied entry to a stadium because of his rainbow t-shirt.
Other current and former US soccer players, including Ali Krieger and Tony Meola, expressed their condolences, as did sporting bodies such as Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League.

Wittyngham, Wahl’s podcast co-host, told CNN on Saturday that the news of his death had been difficult to accept.

“For Americans, Grant Wahl is the first person they read about soccer.” For a while, he was the only one… “Grant was the first person who really paid genuine attention to this sport in a meaningful way,” Wittyngham said.

Several journalists shared stories about reporting alongside Wahl and meeting him at multiple World Cups over the years.

“Before he became the best at covering soccer, he did hoops and was so nice to me,” wrote legendary broadcaster Dick Vitale.

The US Ambassador to Qatar, Timmy T. Davis, tweeted that Wahl was “a well-known and highly respected reporter who focused on the beautiful game.”

“The entire US Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” US Soccer said in a statement on its official Twitter account.

“Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us.”

US Soccer expressed its condolences to Wahl’s wife, Celine Gounder, and family.

Gounder also shared the US Soccer statement on Twitter.

“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of my husband Grant Wahl’s soccer family and the many friends who have reached out tonight.” “I’m in complete shock,” wrote Gounder, a former CNN contributor who served on the Biden-Harris transition Covid-19 advisory board.

The US State Department’s spokesperson, Ned Price, said the department was in “close communication” with Wahl’s family. The World Cup organizers also stated that they were in contact with the US embassy “to ensure that the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the family’s wishes.”

Wahl is wearing a rainbow-colored t-shirt while working at Qatar 2022.
Wahl is wearing a rainbow-colored t-shirt while working at Qatar 2022.
Doug Zimmerman/ISI Photos/Getty Images
Wahl had covered soccer for more than two decades, including 11 World Cups — six men’s, five women’s — and authored several books on the sport, according to his website.

He had just celebrated his birthday earlier this week with “a great group of media friends at the World Cup,” according to a post on his official Twitter account, which added, “Very thankful for everyone.”

I’m sick
In an episode of the podcast Futbol with Grant Wahl published just days before his death on December 6, he complained about feeling ill.

“It had gotten pretty bad in terms of tightness in my chest, tightness, and pressure.” “I’m feeling pretty hairy, bad,” Wahl admitted to co-host Chris Wittyngham during the episode. He went to the World Cup media center’s medical clinic, believing he had bronchitis.

He was given cough syrup and ibuprofen and said he felt better shortly afterwards.

Wahl also stated that he felt a “involuntary capitulation by my body and mind” following the US-Netherlands game on December 3.

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

He went on to describe the incident in a recent newsletter published on December 5, writing that his body had “broken down” due to a lack of sleep, high stress, and a heavy workload. He’d had a cold for 10 days that “turned into something more severe,” he wrote, adding that he felt better after receiving antibiotics and catching up on sleep.

Wahl made headlines in November when he reported being detained and briefly denied entry to a World Cup match because he was wearing a rainbow t-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights.

He claimed that security had told him to change his shirt because “it’s not allowed” and had taken his phone. Wahl claims he was released 25 minutes after being detained and received apologies from a FIFA representative and a senior member of the stadium security team.