ESPN personalities share their cancer stories leading up to ESPYS

Jay Crawford on SportsCenter. (Allen Kee/ESPN Images)
SportsCenter anchor Jay Crawford is one of more than a dozen on-air people who shared stories of how cancer touched them. (Allen Kee/ESPN Images)

With ESPN’s ongoing commitment to The V Foundation for Cancer Research, launched by ESPN with the late Jim Valvano in 1993, the network is airing a series of 15 vignettes by ESPN personalities leading up to Wednesday’s telecast of The 2016 ESPYS (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).

The vignettes share personal stories of cancer and its effects, and SportsCenter anchor Jay Crawford, who lost his father to cancer in 2007, didn’t hesitate when asked to be part of the series.

“My original attraction to it was cancer affects everybody,” Crawford said. “I think more than anything I just wanted to put my own personal touch on how it impacted my life and how it’s changed the way I live my life.

“The one thing cancer survivors and victims’ families will tell you, for better or worse, it definitely changes your life,” he said. “And the way I chose to deal with my loss was to try and turn it into a positive. My dad told me before he went that’s how he wanted me to deal with it, and it’s hard for anyone to find comfort or anything positive in a loss from the disease but the way we choose to live our lives after we lose a loved one is in many ways a testament to the loved one that we lost.”

Crawford and his father shared a love of Cleveland’s sports teams, and shortly before his father’s death, the two watched the Cleveland Indians lose out on a chance to go to the World Series. Afterward, his father gave him what Crawford said was the best advice he ever received.

“He said that I would get to see a championship in my lifetime, and he told me that whatever was going on in my life at the time, make sure that I celebrated it and enjoyed it with my son,” he said.

Crawford did exactly that last month when the Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA title. Crawford was assigned to be in Cleveland for SportsCenter while Game 7 with the Golden State Warriors was played in Oakland, so he and his son Corey changed schedules so Corey could accompany his father to Cleveland. They were together when the game ended and the Cavs were crowned champions.

“That moment for me was as special as it was because he was there with me,” Crawford said. “He was the first person I hugged, and I thought of my father as I was hugging my son, because my dad told me that I would. My dad was the smartest man alive, and the advice he gave me was always on point.”

Kerney’s Mother, Other Family Members Inspire Her

For SportsCenter anchor Lisa Kerney, recording a vignette about her family’s issues with cancer was an easy decision.

“No one is immune to cancer and we’re all in this battle together,” Kerney said. “I was young when my mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer. She beat it with grace and became an advocate for cancer research as a proud survivor.

“She has now beaten cancer twice and I am so grateful to have this time with her. My mom is a fighter. I am so proud of her courage, humility and strength.

“The women in my family. . . my mom, along with my aunt and grandma. . . have been incredible examples for me of choosing to thrive through intense and scary challenges,” she said. “I hope my story about my family gives others who are in this fight a feeling of hope and peace.”

In addition to Kerney and Crawford, other SportsCenter anchors who taped vignettes were Cari Champion, Kevin Connors, Lindsay Czarniak, Jay Harris, David Lloyd, Kevin Negandhi and Jaymee Sire, along with SportsCenter contributor Sarina Morales.

Reporter and play-by-play announcer Holly Rowe also recorded a vignette as did NBA Countdown host Sage Steele, NFL host Trey Wingo and bureau reporters Shelley Smith and Ed Werder.

Mo Davenport, ESPN senior vice president, production, leads ESPN’s ESPY Day fundraising efforts, which include ESPN Radio’s ESPY Day Auction, the ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic and the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards & Dinner.

Senior coordinating producers Davd Brofsky and Mike Leber oversaw the production of the vignettes.

-By Andy Hall

Back to top button