The death of prominent journalist Grant Wahl at the World Cup in Qatar has led to an outpouring of shock and grief across the sports world, with NBA star LeBron James and tennis great Billie Jean King leading the tributes to the American.
Wahl died after collapsing while covering Friday’s Argentina-Netherlands match. The exact cause of his death is not yet known.
King said Wahl’s death was “heartbreaking.”
“A talented journalist, Grant was an advocate for the LGBTQ community & a prominent voice for women’s soccer,” King tweeted Saturday. “He used his platform to elevate those whose stories needed telling. Prayers for his family.”
On Friday in Philadelphia, basketball star James said he had been “very fond of Grant.” While Wahl was at Sports Illustrated, he did a cover story on James when the basketball icon was in high school.
“I’ve always kind of watched from a distance, even when I moved up in ranks and became a professional, and he went to a different sport,” said James, speaking at a postgame press conference. “Any time his name would come up I’ll always think back to me as a teenager and having Grant in our building. … It’s a tragic loss.”
Tyler Adams, the captain of the US Men’s National Soccer Team, sent his “deepest sympathy” to Wahl’s wife, Celine Gounder, and to those who knew him.
“As players we have a tremendous amount of respect for the work of journalists, & Grant’s was a giant voice in soccer that has tragically fallen silent,” Adams wrote on Twitter.
“Only some days ago, Grant was recognized by FIFA and AIPS (the International Sports Press Association) for his contribution to reporting on eight consecutive FIFA World Cups,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino in a statement.
The co-editors in chief of Sports Illustrated, the publication where Wahl spent the majority of his career, said in a joint statement they were “shocked and devastated at the news of Grant’s passing.”
“We were proud to call him a colleague and friend for two decades – no writer in the history of (Sports Illustrated) has been more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell,” said the statement.
Other current and former US soccer players, including Ali Krieger and Tony Meola, shared their condolences, as did sporting bodies such as Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League.
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