April 13, 2024

Chris Mortensen, an award-winning veteran reporter for ESPN, died Sunday morning, the network announced. He was 72 and no cause was given, but he had been battling cancer during his life.

“Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hard-working teammate,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. “He covered the NFL with extraordinary skill and passion, and was at the top of his field for decades. He will truly be missed by colleagues and fans, and our hearts and thoughts are with his loved one.”

Mortensen took a leave of absence from ESPN in 2016 after being diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer, which later spread to his lungs. He left ESPN in 2023 after joining the network in 1991.

“An absolutely devastating day,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter wrote on X. “Mort was one of the greatest reporters in sports history, and an even better man. Sincerest condolences to his family, and all who knew and loved him. So many did. Mort was the very best. He will be forever missed and remembered.”

Mortensen was a regular contributor to ESPN’s NFL shows and SportsCenter. His scoops included the news in 2016 that Peyton Manning was retiring from the NFL.

In 2016, he received the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick McCann Award and was honored during the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s enshrinement ceremony in August that year.

Earlier in his career, he wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (1983 to ’90), covering the Falcons, Braves, and the NFL, and won the George Polk Award in 1987 for his reporting. He also was one of the first writers hired by editor Frank Deford at the sports daily The National, working there from 1989 to 1990 before coming to ESPN.

He also was a columnist for The Sporting News, a contributor to Sport magazine, and a consultant with CBS Sports’ “NFL Today” (1990).

Mortensen began his journalism career in California at the South Bay’s Daily Breeze in 1969, and won the National Headliner Award for investigative reporting in all categories. He received 18 awards in journalism and was nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes in his career.

Mortensen is survived by his wife, Micki, and son, Alex. No memorial plans have been announced.

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