Opinion: America Should Withdraw From The Next World Cup


Michael James, Staff Writer

Grant Wahl was an American sports journalist covering this year’s world cup in Qatar. He spent the majority of his career as an extremely well-respected writer for Sports Illustrated. Wahl was most prominently known for his article “The Chosen One”—the first Lebron James cover story that Sports Illustrated ever published. The sporting and journalistic worlds were shocked and heartbroken to learn that Mr. Wahl tragically passed away on Friday, December 9th, while attending the Argentina game.

The untimely passing of Wahl—who was only 48-years-old—has led many to believe there is more to this story. On November 1st, 2022, he was detained by Qatari officials for wearing a rainbow shirt in support of LGBTQ+ rights. In Qatar, homosexuality is considered a crime that is punishable by death. There was significant controversy around Qatar hosting the World Cup due to the many human rights violations that occur in the country. Many Americans believe that foul play was involved in the death of Wahl.

Although there is no evidence to support these claims at this time, the tragedy seems too suspicious to be natural. Eric Wahl, Grant’s gay brother, posted a heart-crushing video to Instagram saying, “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.” Wahl’s death is currently considered to be a result of natural causes, though that is subject to change.

America is the leader of the free world and strongly supports freedom of speech, press, religion–and human dignity–worldwide. Qatar is ranked 119th globally on the Freedom of Press Index and has been known to have situations similar to Wahl’s in the past. The United States of America should be outraged by the lack of backlash from FIFA regarding the human rights violations in Qatar. Regardless of the 6,500 migrant workers who have passed in preparation for the world cup, a lack of respect for the LGBTQ+ community, and now the suspicious death of Wahl, there has been no punishment for Qatar from the FIFA organization. The United States cannot continue to support FIFA if it does not reflect the beliefs and ideologies of basic human rights.

The United States of America, Canada, and Mexico are currently scheduled to host the 2026 World Cup as a group. If FIFA does not thoroughly investigate the deaths of Grant Wahl and the migrant workers then Team USA needs to withdraw from the next World Cup. American stadiums should also refuse to host matches in 2026. It would be wildly inappropriate for the United States to give such a large platform to an organization that has repeatedly shown disrespect for human rights. Hosting the World Cup gives the impression that America values profits and soccer over the rights of citizens globally.

My message to the government and US Soccer is this: do not embarrass the American people. Do not allow injustice and homophobia to enter our country. Force FIFA to launch an investigation into the passing of Grant Wahl—and if they won’t—then we can no longer participate in their events.

I would like to close this article by sending my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Grant Wahl. His work–both as a journalist and human rights activist–will never be forgotten by the sports world.