ESPN analyst Chris Mortensen has announced that he is taking time off from the network so he can start receiving treatment for Stage IV throat cancer. Sources said that Mr. Mortensen has been ill for the past couple of months.
ESPN news anchor Suzy Kolber broadcasted his diagnosis live, on the air Friday afternoon. “And, Mort, we all want you to know: your fight is our fight,” she said.
Mortensen, 64, who joined ESPN as an NFL sports analyst back in 1991, said in a statement that he was diagnosed with the illness over a week ago and that the cancer diagnosis was confirmed on Friday. “There is another test remaining that will determine the best possible treatment plan that will commence in the very immediate future,” he said in the statement.
The NFL sports analyst added that he will leave and will continue fighting this disease that is projected to affect nearly 1.7 million Americans in 2016.
“I have many inspirational examples of men, women and children who have faced this very fight. We all know somebody, right? I also have the love and prayers of my wife Micki, my family, my friends, colleagues and, most of all, my faith that serve as sources of tremendous strength. I have a peace about this and look forward to the battle.”
Staff at the sports network station posted a message about their colleague on Twitter recently. His nickname “Mort” became a popular trending topic on social media just a little after his cancer diagnosis was made. “Mort” also received encouraging words and thoughts from fellow co-workers and friends as well.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 15, 2016
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) January 15, 2016
Chris Mortensen was a great colleague and mentor for me when I was at ESPN. Godspeed and best wishes to you in your battle, @mortreport.
— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) January 15, 2016
@mortreport is one of the good guys & a respected reporter in a tough, competitive business. Look forward to your victorious return to ESPN.
— Troy Aikman (@TroyAikman) January 15, 2016
“Mortensen has been with the sports network for 25 years. He is one of the network’s top football news-breakers, along with fellow colleague Adam Schefter, who had this message to say about his dear friend.”
“It was jarring, a professional and personal whammy,” ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter told SI.com. “I consider him one of my closest friends. If I have issues in my life, he knows everything. He keeps upbeat, grounded, a great friend, a great sounding board, I love the guy.”
According to ESPN, before joining the network, Mortensen had a successful career with several newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he worked there as an investigative reporter. While working for the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution, he covered sports teams such as the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Falcons—he also did some live NFL coverage as well.
Over the years, Mortensen has received 18 awards in the field of journalism and was also nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes. In 1987, the popular analyst won the George Polk Award for outstanding reporting.
Besides being an analyst on ESPN, Mortensen is also a regular on television networks such as the Sunday NFL Countdown, NFL Live, NFL Insider and many others.
According to CNN Money, Mortensen will leave the television network three weeks before the Super Bowl is slated to air in February. There was no timetable mentioned in regard to how long the beloved reporter’s treatment plan is expected to take.
Last year, ESPN correspondent Stuart Scott died after enduring a long battle with cancer. His battle with the disease served as an inspiration to others and will also do the same for Mortensen as he is beginning his journey on a road that many hope will lead to a complete and fast recovery.
Both Mortensen and his wife Micki have two grown children. Their son, Alex, used to play college football at Arkansas and Samford. Now he is currently an offensive graduate assistant for Alabama this season.
In a statement, ESPN president John Skipper said, “Our thoughts are with Chris and his family as he faces this challenge. He is an extremely respected colleague, who has the complete support of his entire ESPN family. We wish him strength and hope in the battle ahead and look forward to his return whenever he chooses.”
[Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images]