CHARLOTTE – Charlotte FC defender Anton Walkes has died of injuries sustained in a boating accident that occurred off the coast of Miami on Wednesday afternoon, authorities said Thursday. He was 25 years old.
“Everyone at Tepper Sports & Entertainment is devastated by the tragic passing of Anton Walkes. He was a wonderful son, father, partner and teammate whose joyful approach to life touched everyone he met,” owner David Tepper said in a statement. “Anton made those around him better people in all areas of life and represented Charlotte FC at the highest level both on and off the field. He will be greatly missed by many and our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Anton at this heartbreaking time. The club offers its full support to all those affected during this period of mourning.”
The Royal Family, a support club for Charlotte FC, held a vigil on Thursday outside the East Gate of Bank of America Stadium to honor Walkes’ life. The vigil began at 4 p.m. and dozens of fans brought cards, jerseys, banners, flowers and signs to place against the gate. Charlotte FC owner David Tepper and the team arrived together, huddled around the fan-created memorial.
Charlotte FC is more than just a football club for some fans.
“Our family is going through a rough time right now,” fan Jorge Gonzalez told Channel 9 outside the stadium.
Will Palaszczuk, who calls Charlotte FC games for WFNX, said Walkes was a friend before they both moved to Queen City.
“Just the most charismatic person that every teammate who played with him loved him,” he said.
Palaszczuk said Walkes took great pride in creating a second home in Charlotte.
Anton’s legacy will forever be part of the structure of this football club, Palaszczuk said.
The club posted video of the team at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday night.
Florida conservationists said Channel 9 Walkes was found unconscious after two ships crashed into the water near the Miami Marine Stadium basin around 3 p.m. Wednesday. He was taken to shore and taken to hospital in critical condition, officials said.
Walkes operated one of the crashed boats, the state agency said in a statement.
It was unclear if anyone else was injured. The agency’s investigation is ongoing.
Walkes has been drafted by Charlotte FC from the Atlanta United FC squad in the 2021 MLS Expansion Draft. He made 23 appearances for Charlotte FC.
He was acquired by Atlanta United in 2020, where he had previously been loaned out. He started 65 times in three seasons with the team.
Before moving to Atlanta, he attended the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club Academy in London.
“We are heartbroken by the loss of Anton Walkes, a truly incredible father, a loving person and an outstanding human being,” sporting director Zoran Krneta said. “Anton epitomized what it means to be a part of Charlotte Football Club and our entire community mourns this tragedy. The impact he made in the dressing room and throughout Charlotte will never be forgotten. We think of his dear family at this time and will fully support them in every way imaginable.”
Charlotte FC said it would not release any further information at this time to respect Walkes’ friends and family.
On Thursday, fans and supporters from around the world found ways to honor him. Dozens of supporters gathered in Charlotte to pay their respects. And during their match that day, the Tottenham Hotspur players wore black armbands.
Walkes’ impact was felt off the pitch. A club official described him as a true light on the world, Channel 9’s Phil Orban reports.
Tributes poured in on social media from his teammates — Jaylin Lindsey called Walkes the best teammate he could wish for. Brandt Bronico said he was absolutely heartbroken and thanked him for who he was.
You can read their tributes — and others — below:
This is an evolving story. Check back later for updates.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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