Grant Wahl, Journalist Who Criticized Qatar’s Anti-Gay Policies, Dies Suddenly While Covering World Cup in Doha

Wahl’s brother says in Instagram post that he believes foul play was involved

Grant Wahl, a respected sports journalist who has publicly criticized World Cup host Qatar’s repressive anti-gay policies and its cruel treatment of migrant workers, died suddenly on Friday while covering a World Cup match. He was 48.

Wahl had covered 11 world cups during his career, wrote two books about soccer, and notably has worked for Sports Illustrated. He also served as a producer on the three-part Amazon Prime soccer documentary “Good Rivals.”

“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,” Wahl’s wife, Celine Gounder, said after the news was made public.

Wahl made headlines on November 21 after he was denied entrance to a world cup match because he was wearing a rainbow shirt to protest the country’s oppressive policies against the LGBT community. When he tweeted about the incident, he said “one guard forcibly ripped my phone from my hands.” He was detained for nearly 30 minutes; FIFA later apologized.

In an emotional video posted to Instagram after Wahl’s death was announced, Eric Wahl, Grant Wahl’s brother, who is gay, said “I’m the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the World Cup. He 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.”

And just one day before his death, he’d covered the indifference of World Cup organizers to the plight of migrants, tweeting, “They just don’t care. Qatari World Cup organizers don’t even hide their apathy over migrant worker deaths, including the most recent one.”

In a comment on the post, which has since been taken down, Eric Wahl wrote, ““We’re still trying to find out. He collapsed at the stadium, was given cpr, was taken by Uber to hospital and died according to Celine. We just spoke with the state department and Celine has spoken to Ron Klain and the White House.”

“It’s really important to me and it’s not required by any stretch of the imagination,” Wahl said about the protest, adding that “I’ve got family members who are gay. I’ve got friends who are gay. I’ve got journalist friends who are gay who are here in Qatar. But you don’t need that to be supportive, to be an ally.”

In a statement, the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team organization said in part: “The entire US 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… Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us.”