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Sports journalist Grant Wahl dies covering World Cup in Qatar after 'death threats'

Grant Wahl, a sports journalist and soccer analyst, died Friday while covering the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. He had previously been detained and released after wearing a rainbow shirt. Photo courtesy of Eric Wahl/Instagram
Grant Wahl, a sports journalist and soccer analyst, died Friday while covering the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. He had previously been detained and released after wearing a rainbow shirt. Photo courtesy of Eric Wahl/Instagram

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Grant Wahl, a sports journalist and soccer analyst, died while covering the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, U.S. Soccer confirmed Friday. He was 48.

Wahl's cause of death was not revealed but his brother, Eric Wahl, pleaded for help in a video message he shared on Instagram.

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He had previously been detained for wearing a rainbow shirt in Qatar two weeks ago, where same-sex relationships are illegal.

"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," Eric Wahl said in the video message.

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"My brother was healthy. He told me that he received death threats. I do not believe that my brother just died. I believe he was killed."

His death prompted remarks from State Department spokesman Ned Price, who revealed that U.S. officials have been "in close communication" with Wahl's family.

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"We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Grant Wahl and send our condolences to his family, with whom we have been in close communication," Price said.

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"We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family's wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible."

Eric Wahl later said that his brother collapsed at the stadium and was given CPR before he was taken by Uber to a hospital, where he died, according to the New York Post.

Grant Wahl was married to Céline Gounder, an infectious disease expert who served on the COVID-19 Advisory Board transition team for President Joe Biden.

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"I am so thankful for the support of my husband Grant Wahl's soccer family and of so many friends who've reached out tonight. I'm in complete shock," Gounder said in a statement.

In its statement, U.S. Soccer said that "the entire U.S. Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl."

"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 statement reads.

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Grant Wahl detailed his detention in Qatar in an article in his Substack newsletter.

"When I arrived at the stadium media entrance to cover the United States-Wales World Cup game today wearing a rainbow soccer ball t-shirt supporting the LGBTQ community, the security guards refused to let me in, detained me for 25 minutes and angrily demanded that I remove my t-shirt," Wahl wrote.

Wahl said that he sent out a quick tweet after he was detained and a security guard "forcibly ripped my phone from my hands."

"Nearly half an hour passed. One security guard told me that my shirt was 'political' and not allowed. Another continually refused to give me back my phone. Another guard yelled at me as he stood above me -- I was sitting on a chair by now -- that I had to remove my shirt," Wahl wrote. "I told him no."

Wahl revealed on his podcast "Futbol with Grant Wahl" on Thursday that he had bronchitis and was feeling sick.

"My body I think told me, even after the U.S. went out, 'dude, you are not sleeping enough.' It rebelled on me," Wahl said on his podcast.

"So I've had a case of bronchitis this week, I've been to the medical clinic at the media center twice now, including today. I'm feeling better today. I basically canceled everything on this Thursday that I had and napped. And I'm doing slightly better. I think you can probably tell in my voice that I'm not 100%."

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Wahl's agent, Tim Scanlan, told The New York Times on Friday that Wahl was in the press box during the quarterfinal game between Argentina and the Netherlands when he collapsed. He is believed to have died at a local hospital.

Notable Deaths of 2022

Anita Pointer
Anita Pointer of the Grammy-winning Pointer Sisters stands with Andy Madadian (C) and La Toya Jackson (L) as Madadian is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2020. Pointer, who performed alongside her sisters June and Ruth, died at the age of 74 on December 31 following a battle with cancer. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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