Chris Mortensen, ESPN’s NFL reporter for three decades, dead at 72

Chris Mortensen

Chris Mortensen, who covered the NFL for ESPN for more than three decades, died Sunday, the cable sports news network announced. He was 72.

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A cause of death was not announced.

ESPN announced Mortensen’s death on its public relations account on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“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 be truly missed by colleagues and fans, and our hearts and thoughts are with his loved ones.”

Mortensen joined ESPN in 1991 and was a regular contributor to the network’s NFL shows and “SportsCenter.” He was a regular news breaker for ESPN, according to the sports network.

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

Mortensen was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer in January 2016 and announced his decision to retire after 33 seasons last September. He made his decision during the 2023 NFL draft “to focus on my health, family and faith.”

“Mort helped set the journalism standard in the early days of ESPN. His credibility, attention to detail and reporting skills catapulted our news and information to a new level,” Norby Williamson, executive editor and head of studio production for ESPN, said in a statement. “More importantly, he was a great teammate and human being. He personified care and respect for people which became the culture of ESPN.”

Mortensen, a native of Torrance, California, was born on Nov. 7, 1951.

He wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1983 to 1990, where he covered the Falcons, Braves and the NFL, according to ESPN.

Mortensen won the George Polk Award in 1987 for his reporting and was also part of the sports daily The National in 1989-90.

Mortensen also wrote columns for The Sporting News and contributed to Sport magazine, according to ESPN. He also served as a consultant with CBS Sports’ “NFL Today” in 1990.

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