Note: This story has been updated with the cause of death.
Grant Wahl ’96 died Friday while covering the World Cup in Qatar, U.S. Soccer and his wife, Celine Gounder ’97, confirmed in separate posts on Twitter. He was 49.
“I am so thankful for the support of my husband @GrantWahl’s soccer family & of so many friends who’ve reached out tonight. I’m in complete shock,” Gounder wrote.
He wrote Monday on his Substack that he had not been feeling well and had sought medical attention 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,” Wahl wrote. “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. I didn’t have Covid (I test regularly here), but I went into the medical clinic at the main media center today, and they said I probably have bronchitis. 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.”
Gounder said Wednesday that Wahl's body returned to the U.S. Monday and an autopsy performed by the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office revealed the cause of death as an aortic aneurysm. “The chest pressure he experienced shortly before his death may have represented the initial symptoms,” she wrote. “No amount of CPR or shocks would have saved him. His death was unrelated to COVID. His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death.”
She added: “While the world knew Grant as a great journalist, we knew him as a man who approached the world with openness and love. Grant was an incredibly empathetic, dedicated, and loving husband, brother, uncle, and son who was our greatest teammate and fan. We will forever cherish the gift of his life.”
Wahl wore a rainbow T-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights to the United States-Wales match on Nov. 21. He wrote that security refused to allow him into the stadium unless he removed the shirt, and that he was detained for 25 minutes. Gay and lesbian sex is criminalized in Qatar, a conservative Muslim nation. Wahl said FIFA apologized to him.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted late Friday: “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. We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible.”
Wahl was a long-time soccer reporter for Sports Illustrated from 1996 to 2021. He also covered soccer for Fox Sports and CBS Sports. But before that he worked for The Daily Princetonian as a reporter and sports editor.His September 1994 profile of Princeton running back Bill Jordan showed off Wahl’s writing ability and started his career on an upward trajectory.
“Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement.
Chris Long ’97 tweeted his condolences and credited Wahl with helping Long and his wife, Angie Long ’97, become owners of the Kansas City Current of the National Women’s Soccer League.
“Angie and I are devastated. We have together known @GrantWahl for 30+ yrs,” Long wrote. “@thekccurrent wouldn’t exist without having had Grant’s advice. He was our first call. He is a legend. His words were always insightful, honest, powerful but his actions made all of our lives better.”
Contributing: The Associated Press