Moments after it was reported that esteemed sports journalist Grant Wahl had died while covering the World Cup in Qatar, tributes to the CBS Sports contributor began pouring in online.
Wahl, 49, was in the press box for the quarterfinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands when he appeared to suffer “some kind of acute distress,” his agent, Tim Scanlan, told CBS News. Paramedics were called to the scene, Scanlan said, but were unable to revive him. The exact cause of death is not yet known.
A prolific journalist, Wahl wrote for multiple outlets and was a CBS Sports contributor. He was an analyst on CBS Sports HQ throughout the Qatar World Cup, and wrote guest columns focused on the U.S. men’s national team for CBS Sports. He was also an editorial consultant for soccer documentaries on Paramount+.
In 2002, Wahl got to know then-teen LeBron James while he was working on a Sports Illustrated cover issue that featured James. The basketball star on Friday paid tribute to Wahl while speaking to the media.
“I’m very fond of Grant and having that cover shoot,” James said, adding, “I’ve always kind of watched from a distance. Even when I moved up in the ranks and became a professional and he kind of went to a different sport and things of that nature over the years, anytime his name would come up I would always think back to me as a teenager and having Grant in our building down at St. V. So, it’s a tragic loss.”
Tennis legend and gender equality advocate Billie Jean King responded to the news by tweeting: “Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Grant Wahl. A talented journalist, Grant was an advocate for the LGBTQ community & a prominent voice for women’s soccer. He used his platform to elevate those whose stories needed telling. Prayers for his family.”
U.S. Men’s National Team captain Tyler Adams also took to Twitter to express his sympathy, writing, “On behalf of myself and the @USMNT, we offer our deepest sympathy to @celinegounder & all those who mourn the loss of Grant Wahl. 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.”
In a tweet, Wahl’s wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, a medical contributor for CBS News, said that she was “in complete shock” and thanked Wahl’s “soccer family” and their friends for their support.
Sports commentators and journalists also paid tribute to Wahl’s impressive career. Senior CBS Sports writer and analyst Matt Norlander said he couldn’t “comprehend” Wahl’s loss.
“That is not computing. If he’d wanted to, Grant would’ve been THE preeminent scribe in college basketball. Instead, he changed lanes and forever altered the way American soccer was covered and popularized. Legendary. This is a tragedy,” he tweeted.
In a second post, he called Wahl “a great man and fearless reporter.”
“Life is fragile and there is always a reminder in there to live each moment for what it is. Don’t worry about the past nor the future, take care of the now. It’s the only guarantee in life,” wrote Taylor Twellman, a former U.S. soccer player and media commentator.
ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas tweeted that Wahl was “everything a great journalist should strive to be, and an even better person.”
“I’m devastated by the loss of Grant Wahl,” ESPN investigative reporter Don Van Natta Jr. wrote. “He was a peerless journalist and kind man whose coverage of soccer was fair … fearless.”
Several soccer teams also shared statements.
“The beautiful game is better because of him,” Los Angeles women’s team Angel City F.C. tweeted, crediting Wahl for his “contribution to the soccer community, especially women’s soccer.”
D.C. United, the Washington soccer team, called Wahl a “passionate and dedicated champion” of the game.
The U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement that the “entire U.S. soccer family is heartbroken” by Wahl’s death. “Grant’s passion for soccer and commitment to elevating its profile across our sporting landscape played a major role in helping to drive interest and respect for our beautiful game. As important, Grant’s belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino expressed “disbelief and immense sadness,” adding, “his love for football was immense and his reporting will be missed by all who follow the global game.”
Prior to Saturday’s quarterfinal match between England and France, FIFA paid tribute to Wahl on the video screens of Al Bayt Stadium.
“Through his work, Grant shared his love of football with millions,” the stadium’s public address announcer said in a statement. “FIFA and the world of football expresses sincere condolences to his wife Céline, his family and friends at this most difficult time.”
Flowers and a photo of Wahl were placed at what would have been his designated press seat for the match, which was left empty.
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber tweeted that the organization was “shocked, saddened and heartbroken” by his passing.
The National Women’s Soccer League tweeted that it was “heartbroken” by the news, writing that Wahl’s “commitment to sharing the stories of our beautiful game was unmatched, but more importantly, his integrity, thoughtfulness and kindness were central to the way he lived.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story used an incorrect age for Grant Wahl and has been updated to correct his age.