John Saunders, a longtime host and sports commentator for ESPN, has passed away at the age of 61.
The death of the favored TV personality, who first joined ESPN as a SportsCenter anchor in December of 1986, was reported live on SportsCenter Wednesday morning by anchor Hannah Storm.
John Saunders died at the age of 61. Hannah Storm delivered the news to ESPN viewers. pic.twitter.com/eFwqzwH1xk
— SportsCast (@SportsCast_THN) August 10, 2016
In her report, Hannah fought back the tears and worked hard to maintain her composure while talking about the man she referred to as “generous and talented and beloved” in the past tense.
ESPN referred to John Saunders as one of the network’s “most visible and versatile commentators” in a press release published Wednesday. The press release also contained a statement issued by ESPN President John Skipper. In his statement, Skipper acknowledges John Saunders for his years of service to the network, talent, and personality.
“John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades. His wife range of accomplishments across numerous sports and championship events is among the most impressive this industry has ever seen.”
In addition to crediting John’s years of professional service as an on-air TV personality, the ESPN president also paid tribute to John’s personal life and passions outside of the ESPN studio.
“More importantly, John was a beloved and devoted family man who cared deeply about people and causes, as evidenced by his long-standing efforts as a passionate board member for The V Foundation for Cancer Research. He was one of the most significant and influential members of the ESPN family, as a colleague and mentor, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”
How did John Saunders die? According to TMZ, “the details surrounding Saunders’ death are unclear.” The report further stated that officials confirmed the longtime sports journalist passed away in New York and that “there is no suspicion of foul play.”
Quite a few people have shared their reactions and responses to John Saunders’ death on Twitter — including his fellow ESPN colleagues, fans, celebrities and even sports teams.
Our friend and colleague John Saunders has passed away. He was 61. pic.twitter.com/Ness3DvB7t
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 10, 2016
The Orioles mourn the passing of John Saunders pic.twitter.com/xy0LzoPY33
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 10, 2016
Devastating doesn’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling right now. John Saunders was a wonderful man, ultra pro & father figure.#RIP
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) August 10, 2016
RIP John Saunders…an absolute legend
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) August 10, 2016
RIP to my dear friend John Saunders. Much love, Johnny. https://t.co/dWyQeuCEZM
— Dave Coulier (@DaveCoulier) August 10, 2016
John Saunders’ history with sports started long before his years of commentating and hosting broadcasts. The Canadian native was actually a star defense player in the Montreal junior leagues. He played hockey and received a scholarship at Western Michigan in the mid-1970s before transferring to Ryerson Polytechnical and eventually becoming an all-star player for the Ontario University Athletic Association.
John Saunders left an extraordinary legacy. pic.twitter.com/oexhjGOD3T
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 10, 2016
He dove into the world of news reports while still attending school and playing hockey – a planted seed that would eventually grow into a long-time career for the popular sports journalist and show host. John Saunders left WMAR-TV in Baltimore in 1986 after anchoring multiple daily sports reports for the network for nearly four years and joined ESPN as a SportsCenter anchor.
John Saunders also focused on finding ways to give back to the community. According to ESPN, John “was an active mentor to young and aspiring journalists.” John Saunders is survived by his wife Wanda and two daughters — Jenna and Aleah.
[Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images]