CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Anton Walkes, a player who spent the entire 2022 season with Charlotte FC, died early on Thursday morning following a boating accident in South Florida, the club announced. He was 25.
Walkes was in critical condition after two boats crashed near Miami Marine Stadium on Wednesday around 3 p.m., according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Miami Herald reported that he was found unconscious and received CPR from Miami Fire Rescue.
Charlotte FC had arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 9 to begin a 12-day training camp to kick off its 2023 preseason.
“Everyone at Tepper Sports & Entertainment is devastated by the tragic passing of Anton Walkes. He was a tremendous son, father, partner and teammate whose joyous approach to life touched everyone he met,” said Charlotte FC owner David Tepper. “Anton made those around him better people in all areas of life and represented Charlotte FC to the highest standard both on and off the pitch. He will be greatly missed by many and our thoughts and prayers are with Anton’s family during this heartbreaking time. The Club offers its full support to all those impacted during this period of mourning.”
A vigil has been planned for 4 p.m. outside the East Gate of Bank of America Stadium, per a joint Twitter account for Charlotte FC’s supporters groups.
The Lewisham, England, native began his professional soccer career at age 16 when he signed with Tottenham of the English Premier League. After a brief stint there, the defender split the next five seasons playing for Portsmouth of England’s League One and for Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United.
He was then selected by Charlotte FC in the 2021 expansion draft. He started 21 of 23 appearances in the Queen City club’s inaugural season, facilitating an important toughness and consistency on the team’s defensive line.
“We are heartbroken from the loss of Anton Walkes, a truly incredible father, loving person, and outstanding human being,” Charlotte FC sporting director Zoran Krneta said. “Anton embodied what it means to be a part of Charlotte Football Club and our entire community is grieving over this tragedy. The impact he made in the locker room and throughout Charlotte will never be forgotten. We are thinking of his lovely family during this time and will support them fully in every way imaginable.”
MLS released a statement on Twitter on Thursday morning on Walkes’ passing.
“There are no words to describe the sorrow of everyone in Major League Soccer today after learning of the tragic passing of Anton Walkes of Charlotte FC,” the league said in a statement. “Anton was a talented and dedicated player who was loved by his teammates and fans.”
The first phase of Charlotte FC’s preseason was supposed to conclude with a closed-door friendly against expansion side St. Louis City on Saturday, and then the team was supposed to travel to California to begin its second phase of training camp. It is unclear what the club will do now in terms of scheduling.