US journalist Grant Wahl, who wore rainbow shirt in Qatar, dies: Who was he?


Grant Wahl, a famous soccer journalist in the US, died after he collapsed while covering a match between Argentina and the Netherlands during the FIFA World Cup. Earlier, Wahl hit headlines when he was briefly ‘detained’ for trying to enter a stadium in Qatar wearing a rainbow shirt

US journalist Grant Wahl, who was covering the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, has died. Wahl had hit headlines earlier when he was briefly detained by Qatari authorities for attempting to enter a stadium wearing a rainbow t-shirt to express support for LGBTQ+ rights.

As per BBC, the sports journalist collapsed while covering the World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands.

The US media seated near Wahl said he “fell back in his seat” in a section reserved for media in Lusail Iconic Stadium, reported Associated Press (AP). 

As per the reporters, emergency services workers were quick to respond. Later, the reporters were informed that Wahl had died, reported AP. 

The exact cause of the death of the sports journalist is not known yet.

Expressing anguish over the demise, the US Soccer Federation said it was “heartbroken”.

“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,” it said in a statement.

Media outlet NPR also confirmed the news on Twitter.

“NPR can confirm the death of longtime soccer sportswriter Grant Wahl. He died today in Doha, Qatar while covering the Argentina-Netherlands World Cup quarterfinal,” an NPR reporter tweeted late on Friday, as per Reuters.

Who was Grant Wahl and what is known about his death so far? Why has his brother suspected ‘foul play’? Why was Wahl detained for wearing a rainbow shirt in Qatar? We explain.

Grant Wahl

Grant Wahl was one of the most renowned soccer writers in America, says AP.

The 48-year-old had a long career with Sports Illustrated (from 1996 to 2021) before he started running his own site on Substack reporting on US and world soccer.

Wahl, who graduated from Princeton in 1996, also worked for Fox Sports from 2012-19, as per AP.

He had started his career with Miami Herald in 1996.

Throughout his over two-decade-long career, he has covered several World Cups and Olympic Games.

In 2009, Wahl published the bestseller The Beckham Experiment, reported New York Times (NYT).

The sports writer’s notable works include his story on basketball legend LeBron James in 2002 for Sports Illustrated. The National Basketball Association (NBA) star was then a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, Ohio. Around a year after the piece, James was drafted with the first pick of the NBA Draft, notes

James has also mourned the sudden demise of Wahl, calling it a “tragic loss”.

“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 of 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,” the Los Angeles Lakers superstar was quoted as saying by

Wahl had informed this week that he was among 82 journalists honoured by FIFA and the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) for attending eight or more World Cups, reported AP.

Grant Wahl’s family ‘in shock’

The sports writer was married to Dr Celine Gounder, an associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine.

According to, Gounder has also worked on the COVID-19 response team of the Joe Biden-led US government. She is also an attending physician at Bellevue Hospital Center and a CBS News contributor, reported AP.

Taking to Twitter, Gounder thanked her husband’s “soccer family” for their support, adding that she was in “complete shock”.

Wahl’s brother, Eric, has reportedly raised questions about his brother’s death, saying his brother was “healthy”.

According to New York Post, Eric Wahl said in a video on Instagram – before making his account private – “My name is Eric Wahl. I live in Seattle, Washington. I am Grant Wahl’s brother. I’m gay”.

“I’m the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the World Cup. My brother was healthy. He told me he received death threats. I do not believe my brother just died. I believe he was killed. And I just beg for any help”, he added.

Wahl’s health

Citing early reports, BBC has said Wahl may have had a heart attack, but it is yet to be confirmed.

On Monday, Wahl wrote on his website that he had visited a clinic in Qatar.

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

“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” he added.

The sports writer said he did not have coronavirus, but may have bronchitis.

“I didn’t have COVID (I test regularly here), but I went into the medical clinic and the main media center today, and they said I probably have bronchitis”, AP cited Wahl as saying.

“They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I’m already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno,” he further stated.

US and Qatar react

The US has said it is in touch with Qatar over the journalist’s death.

A US State Department spokesman told, “We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Grant Wahl, and we send our condolences to his family, with whom we have been in close communication. We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see that his family’s wishes for his remains are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible”.

A spokesperson for Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the Qatari body in charge of planning the World Cup, said they were “deeply saddened” by Wahl’s death, who was in the country to cover his eighth FIFA World Cup.

“He fell ill in the Lusail Stadium media tribune, during last night’s quarter-final match between Argentina v Netherlands. He received immediate emergency medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital” the spokesperson said as per BBC. 

“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”, the Qatari body added.

Wahl’s rainbow t-shirt

In November, Wahl had said he was not allowed entry to the United States opener against Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan as he was wearing a rainbow T-shirt.

Homosexuality is criminalised in Qatar.

Wahl said his phone was taken away when he tweeted about the incident, as per Reuters.

“I’m OK, but that was an unnecessary ordeal,” Wahl had said on Twitter.

The sports journalist said after being detained for 25 minutes, he was allowed to enter the venue by a security commander, who also expressed regret over the incident.

Wahl said later a representative of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, also apologized to him.

With inputs from agencies

This article originally appeared on and was reproduced here with permission


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