Journalist Grant Wahl Died of an Aortic Aneurysm, Family Says

Journalist Grant Wahl died of an aortic aneurysm while covering the World Cup in Qatar, his family said Wednesday.

In a statement shared Wednesday morning, Wahl’s wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, explained that it was “slowly growing, undetected.”

“Grant died from the rupture of a slowly growing, undetected ascending aortic aneurysm with hemopericardium,” she wrote on Wahl’s Substack. “The chest pressure he experienced shortly before his death may have represented the initial symptoms. 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.”

Wahl, 48, was covering the Argentina versus Netherlands game at the FIFA World Cup on Friday when he is reported to have collapsed during the match. Other journalists at the stadium questioned why there wasn’t a defibrilator nearby as responders gave Wahl CPR.

Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty

In the immediate aftermath of Grant’s death on Friday, Eric had said he believed his brother “was killed.” Grant was an award-winning sports journalist, who had dedicated significant coverage to the migrant deaths at the FIFA World Cup, and earlier in the tournament had been detained for wearing a rainbow shirt into a match.

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Eric said Tuesday, though, that he and the family now do not believe Grant was killed.

“The family will release a statement as to cause of death soon,” Eric wrote on Twitter. “I no longer suspect foul play. It was not PE [pulmonary embolism].”

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Grant’s body was returned to the United States on Monday morning, the U.S. State Department confirmed. The department said that Wahl’s body arrived at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport at 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning, and had been escorted by a representative of the U.S. Embassy in Doha.

Prior to his death, on his podcast, Fútbol with Grant Wahl, Grant said he had bronchitis.

“My body told me, even after the U.S. went out, ‘Dude you are not sleeping enough.’ It rebelled on me.”

He visited the clinic at the media center for the games twice, he said, and though he was feeling better he canceled all of his plans for Thursday.

grant wahl/instagram

Immediately after his death, U.S. Soccer released a statement via Twitter and said, “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.”

Secretary Antony Blinken shared the following statement regarding Wahl and his work on Monday.

“I so appreciated Grant Wahl, whose writing captured not only the essence of the beautiful game but also the world around it. I send my deepest condolences to his family, and thank our Embassy team and Qatari partners who worked together so effectively to fulfill their wishes.”

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Sports Illustrated, where Wahl worked for 24 years, also praised the late journalist for his influential work over the years.

In a joint statement, its co-editors in chief Ryan Hunt and Stephen Cannella said: “We’re 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 SI has been more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell. Our hearts go out to Celine and his family, as well as everyone who loved his work. He will always be part of the SI family.”

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