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Sports world remembers Grant Wahl, a champion of women’s soccer

Flowers are placed in the Al Bayt Stadium press area in memory of soccer journalist Grant Wahl. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

After Grant Wahl died Saturday while covering the men’s World Cup in Qatar, U.S. women’s national team captain Becky Sauerbrunn joined the chorus celebrating the life of the prominent U.S. soccer journalist.

As the news of Wahl’s death spread, reactions from around the sports world began to pour in, including from the women’s soccer community. Wahl, 48, was a vocal proponent for the women’s game throughout his career, and Sauerbrunn called him “one of the originals who helped drive our game forward.”

“The soccer community lost a real one today,” she wrote. “Grant Wahl never shied away from asking the tough questions, the right questions, the ones that got to the heart of the matter. He will be greatly missed.”

USWNT great Abby Wambach called Wahl’s death “heartbreaking for me for so many reasons.”

Ahead of the 2015 World Cup, which was Wambach’s fourth and last with the USWNT, Wahl profiled the star for Sports Illustrated.

“Grant Wahl and soccer are inextricably linked,” Wambach wrote. “I have looked to Grant and his work for decades. The soccer story here in the US has Grant’s name all over it. We will miss you Grant and we can’t stop thinking about your family.”

Looking at the women’s game, Wahl covered just about every single one of the United States’ best.

In 2010, he wrote a story chronicling Mia Hamm’s activities in retirement. In a social media post mourning Wahl, Hamm called him “one of the best.”

He also wrote about the incredible backstory behind Carli Lloyd’s hat trick for the USWNT at the 2015 World Cup final — and the shot that completed it.

Lloyd, who spent time in Qatar in the last several weeks covering the World Cup with Fox Sports, was “completely shocked” when she heard of his passing, she wrote.

“My heart goes out to his wife, family, friends and the soccer community. Truly heartbreaking,” she added.

Julie Foudy, who like Lloyd played for the USWNT and then joined the media ranks, said she was “still trying to process this.”

“Grant Wahl not only elevated the game here in the US [thanks] to his coverage, he loved the game and knew its power was transformational,” Foudy wrote.

USWNT forward Megan Rapinoe, who Wahl once called a “reporter’s dream,” wrote that his death is “devastating.”

“All love to his family and loved ones,” she wrote.

Ali Krieger, another star player for the U.S., called him an “inspiration” to the soccer community and “anyone who was lucky enough to meet him.”

The NWSL offered its “most sincere condolences” to Wahl’s family and friends.

“We are heartbroken by the news of Grant Wahl’s death,” the NWSL said in a statement. “His 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.”

Adding to the statement, commissioner Jessica Berman recalled Wahl taking the time to make sure she felt welcome to women’s soccer.

“He was a special person,” she wrote.

Kansas City Current owner Chris Long said he and wife Angie “are devastated.” The two had known Grant for more than 30 years, he wrote, and the Current “wouldn’t exist” without his insight.

“He was our first call. He is a legend,” Long wrote. “His words were always insightful, honest, powerful but his actions made all of our lives better.”

Other NWSL clubs also issued statements.

“Grant brought the best of what soccer can be to the public,” the North Carolina Courage said in a statement. “His high-level journalism and passion were instrumental in the growth of our sport in this country. Our thoughts are with his family, loved ones and friends as the entire soccer community mourns this heartbreaking loss.”

Courage head coach Sean Nahas “always heard great things” about Wahl, he wrote.

“He was one who showed a passion for the sport and the people in it in his writing and a true fan of the game,” he added.

Angel City FC was “devastated” by the news, the club said in its statement.

“Grant Wahl’s contribution to the soccer community, especially women’s soccer, cannot be measured,” the club said. “The beautiful game is better because of him. Grant will be incredibly missed.”

Sydney Leroux also expressed appreciation for Wahl, who “cared so deeply about women’s soccer and our soccer community.”

Racing Lousiville forward Jessica McDonald called Wahl’s death “such sad news.”

“He had such a huge impact on the women’s game,” she wrote. “He is very much so appreciated for that and advocating for what he believed in. May he rest in peace. Praying for his family.”

Portland Thorns and Canadian national team forward Janine Beckie called the news “horrific and heartbreaking.”

“A lot of speculation about the reason, I pray this comes to light,” she wrote. “I am at a loss for words, thinking of his family, friends & community in the media. Genuinely heartbroken.”

In addition to advocating for the women’s game, Wahl was outspoken about human rights issues. He made headlines earlier in the 2022 World Cup for wearing a pride t-shirt to the United States’ opener. He was detained by Qatari officials and later released.

Tennis star Billie Jean King applauded Wahl’s work in advocating for the LGBTQ community and women’s soccer.

“Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Grant Wahl,” she wrote. “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.”

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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