What we know about the death of American football journalist Grant Wahl

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American football journalist Grant Wahl (left) died in Qatar on Friday. Brendan Moran/AP Photo

Grant Wahl, one of the most prominent voices in American football journalism, died Friday in Qatar at the age of 48 while covering the Netherlands-Argentina World Cup quarter-final.

News of Wahl’s death has caused an outpouring of grief for one of American football’s most important figures, as well as concerns over the circumstances of his death after being briefly detained at the start of the tournament.

Here’s what we know so far.

What do we know about Grant Wahl’s death?

Wahl was covering the quarter-final at the Lusail Iconic Stadium in Qatar, where colleagues reported a commotion in the press box with reporters calling for medical assistance. Wahl received treatment from an on-site paramedic, including CPR and chest compressions, for about 20 to 25 minutes before being transferred to Hamad General Hospital, according to multiple reports.

World Cup organizers only said Wahl “became ill” in the press box and did not release any further details about his illness or cause of death.

“We are in contact with the United States Embassy and relevant local authorities to ensure that the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the family’s wishes,” organizers said in a statement.

Wahl had said he felt ill earlier in the week, describing a feeling of tightness and discomfort in his chest on his podcast, Futbol with Grant Wahl, on December 6. He sought medical treatment and thought he might be dealing with bronchitis.

“My body finally collapsed on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and a lot of work can do this to you,” Wahl wrote in his newsletter. “What had been a cold for the past 10 days turned into something more serious on the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I could feel my upper chest taking on a new level of pressure and discomfort.”

However, Wahl said he felt better as the week progressed thanks to “a course of antibiotics and heavy-duty cough syrup.”

Why did Grant Wahl make headlines in Qatar?

Wahl brought great success after the World Cup in Qatar and was soon at the center of tournament controversy surrounding LGBTQ+ fans and their acceptance in the country.

Wahl attempted to play in the USA World Cup opener against Wales while wearing a rainbow t-shirt in support of the LGBTQ+ community, where he was denied entrance and was briefly detained at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan. He was released and received an apology from FIFA.

Wahl continued to express concern over the controversies that clouded this tournament. The latest edition of its World Cup Daily newsletter covered Qatari apathy over the deaths of migrant workers in the construction of stadiums for FIFA’s flagship event.

What was the reaction to Grant Wahl’s death?

US Soccer quickly released a statement on social media, writing that “The entire US Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl.

“Grant has made football his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing are no longer with us…His writing and the stories he told will live on.”

Fox opened its coverage of Saturday’s quarterfinals with a tribute to their colleague – for several years a contributor to Fox football coverage – delivered by an emotional Rob Stone.

Lakers star LeBron James was asked about Wahl on Friday. Along with decades of football coverage for Sports Illustrated, Wahl wrote the profile behind SI’s famous “The Chosen One” cover, when the future “King” was first anointed.

“It’s always been pretty cool to be around. He spent a lot of time in my hometown of Akron,” James said. “Every time his name came up, I would always think back to me as a teenager having Grant in our building in St. V’s. It is a tragic loss. It’s unfortunate to lose someone as great as him. I wish the best to his family. May he rest in paradise.

Colleagues from Wahl’s long career offered their condolences and memories on Twitter, from Ian Darke, Fox World Cup commentatorwho called Wahl a “brilliant journalist” and a “kind and helpful companion”, to Jay Bilas of ESPNwho remembered “everything a great journalist should strive to be, and an even better person”.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a tweet that US officials were in contact with Qatari authorities “to ensure that his family’s wishes are granted as soon as possible”.


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