John Saunders, one of ESPN’s most visible and versatile commentators and a founding member of the board of directors for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, passed away. He was 61.
His family issued a statement.
ESPN President John Skipper said: “John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades. His wide range of accomplishments across numerous sports and championship events is among the most impressive this industry has ever seen. 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.”
Former President and Executive Chairman, ESPN, Inc., George Bodenheimer said: “John contributed greatly to building ESPN and always represented the company with class and dignity. As a founding board member of The V Foundation he played a critical role in helping so many others through this important cause. We will miss John’s friendship and spirit and extend our best wishes to his family.”
ESPN NFL host Chris Berman said: “John Saunders was our friend, and he was your friend. You were immediately comfortable with John in 30 seconds. I was fortunate enough to be comfortable with him for 30 years. We knew him for his understated demeanor and understated smile, but we also knew him for his firm commitment to getting things right and treating people right. John was old school, even Old World. Maybe because he was Canadian. Maybe because he was John.
“Professionally, he was always willing to be out of the limelight but make no mistake. With John Saunders, you knew you were in special company. His mark on ESPN is indelible. His mark on all of us even more so.”
ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said: “John Saunders represented everything that was good in a human being. He was all about family and helping people. He was as good as it gets and he had deep loyalty and love for others. His work with The V Foundation was so special – he loved Jimmy V and poured his heart and soul into the cause.He was always willing to share and give and he played a vital role in the success of helping so many. I can’t believe this stunning and horrible news. He will be forever in our thoughts.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released the following statement regarding the passing of John Saunders: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of John Saunders. As the studio host of NBA Shootaround, a play-by-play announcer for nationally televised NBA and WNBA games and one of the Toronto Raptors’ first television voices, John was a vital member of the NBA family for more than two decades and was a friendly and familiar face to our players and fans. His achievements in journalism are matched only by his commitment to his community, particularly his service as a founding member of the V Foundation. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Wanda, their two daughters, Aleah and Jenna, and the entire Saunders family during this difficult time.”
Saunders, who hosted and handled play-by-play for a variety of sports, joined ESPN in 1986 and was one of the company’s most tenured commentators. ESPN MediaZone has more on Saunders’ career. Saunders’ friends, colleagues and admirers shared their thoughts on social media.
Picture my dad, Jim Valvano and Stuart Scott smoking cigars and drinking cognac together in heaven. It makes me smile thinking about it.
— Aleah Saunders (@AleahStitch) August 11, 2016
— Bob Ley (@BobLeyESPN) August 11, 2016
— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) August 10, 2016
I just did a panel with John Saunders and @jemelehill last Friday at NABJ. He was amazing as always. My friend. My mentor. My dude. Love u.
— Jay Harris (@JayHarrisESPN) August 10, 2016
Statement from Susan Braun, CEO of The V Foundation, on the passing of John Saunders. pic.twitter.com/OlkgC2EywF
— The V Foundation (@TheVFoundation) August 10, 2016
John Saunders mentored countless new-hire ESPN anchors, including me. Thankful for his time. Heartsick for his family. Safe home, sir.
— Randy Scott (@RandyScottESPN) August 10, 2016
Devastated. John Saunders was so good to me and so many of us. He was so kind and easy going. We lost a legend. Say a prayer for his family.
— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) August 10, 2016
Utterly debilitating. John worked tirelessly to help others, in front of and behind the camera. He was so very kind. https://t.co/KtDa5BXLxm
— Rob King (@ESPN_RobKing) August 10, 2016
John Saunders, a man of class, devotion to family, charity and, for 30 years, ESPN has passed. Sad day in Bristol. https://t.co/GVUWTUBtIH
— Mike Soltys (@espnmikes) August 10, 2016
Sickened and saddened to hear of loss of our colleague and friend, John Saunders. What a nice man. What a great man. pic.twitter.com/giwC23nSdM
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 10, 2016
RIP John Saunders. We will miss you greatly. So greatly.
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) August 10, 2016
— Matt Barrie (@MattBarrie) August 10, 2016
Hannah Storm delivering the news of John Saunders passing. 😢😢😢 handling this one with such grace. The business lost a good one
— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) August 10, 2016
John Saunders was a pro's pro. Effortlessly smooth. Above that, he was so very kind – to me and everyone he encountered. Sad day.
— Travis Haney (@travhaney) August 10, 2016
My prayers go out to the family of John Saunders, who just passed away. He was one of the greats.
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) August 10, 2016
RIP John Saunders, a real pro who was extremely kind to me from the start. Condolences to family.
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) August 10, 2016
Horrible, horrible news. So sorry for all folks at ESPN. Saunders was family. https://t.co/1BIiRohl3e
— Ed Sherman (@Sherman_Report) August 10, 2016
Saddened by the news regarding John Saunders passing. John was a gracious man and always such a professional. Heartbreaking. Prayers. 🙏🏼
— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) August 10, 2016
I first met John Saunders while working in St. Louis. John came to town as part of a celebrity hockey game we… https://t.co/UCYaOBObcJ
— trey wingo (@wingoz) August 10, 2016
John Saunders was a true professional who always welcomed we w/ a hearty handshake & big ol "RoFlo!!".
I'm so sorry to hear this news
— Robert Flores (@RoFlo) August 10, 2016
— ABC News (@ABC) August 10, 2016
Such devastating news. One of the genuine great guys at ESPN..he always had a smile and made me a better producer. https://t.co/LWTSI1KFrK
— Missy Motha (@MissyMotha) August 10, 2016
John Saunders worked at ESPN since 1986. He was a founding board member of V Foundation. He hosted Sports Reporters. He was 61 and beloved.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 10, 2016
The times I got to be around John Saunders were special. Just different. Classy. Funny. I truly was a fan.
— Michelle Beadle (@MichelleDBeadle) August 10, 2016
The news of John Saunders' death could not be more crushing. We all loved him dearly. We grieve. We will miss him. Can't replace the man.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) August 10, 2016
So incredibly sad to hear that John Saunders has passed. He was a role model, a gentleman & a first-class reporter/anchor. RIP to a legend.
— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) August 10, 2016
RIP John Saunders. Prayers to his family. The epitome of class.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) August 10, 2016
Such sad news this morning about the passing of our colleague, John Saunders. Exceptionally gracious and kind. Thoughts are with his family.
— Stephania Bell (@Stephania_ESPN) August 10, 2016
Sunday was just another day of the week until John Saunders came on my TV. Rest in peace, my friend.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) August 10, 2016
John Saunders and The Sports Reporters showed me there's a place for meaningful, important, impactful sports coverage. RIP, and thank you.
— Kavitha A. Davidson (@kavithadavidson) August 10, 2016
ESPN has announced that John Saunders has died at 61. Shocking news. Condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 10, 2016
So sorry to share tragic news. Beloved colleague John Saunders (joined ESPN in 1986) has passed away. Thoughts with his loved ones
— Josh Krulewitz (@jksports) August 10, 2016
Just an awful, AWFUL day. John Saunders, a legend in the business and a friend to all, has passed away. No words. Truly, no words. #RIP
— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) August 10, 2016
— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) August 10, 2016
In days to come, sports fan will find out about the incredible impact John Saunders had @ESPN. Beyond his on-air talent, was mentor to many.
— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) August 10, 2016
— Dwayne Bray (@DwayneBrayESPN) August 10, 2016
Outside the Lines and ESPN mourn the loss of our friend, John Saunders. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
— Outside The Lines (@OTLonESPN) August 10, 2016
Proud Canadian, Toronto born, Ryerson bred John Saunders. Incredibly generous to me on and off the air. I'll miss him so much
— Adnan Virk, ESPN (@adnanESPN) August 10, 2016
just heard John Saunders passed away a first class man and great friend my thoughts and prayers go out to his family RIP my hockey buddy
— MIKE ERUZIONE (@MERUZIONE) August 10, 2016
John Saunders was one of the greatest treasures in sports media. He gave so much to so many. Fortunate to have called him a friend & mentor.
— Cassidy Hubbarth (@CassidyHubbarth) August 10, 2016
The world lost a great gentleman of broadcasting today, my friend, John Saunders. pic.twitter.com/AQp5XdszA4
— Mitch Albom (@MitchAlbom) August 10, 2016
John Saunders as a defenseman on the Western Michigan University hockey team, mid-1970s. pic.twitter.com/wmBGV0xSjE
— Sports Paper (@SportsPaperInfo) August 10, 2016
Hannah Storm shared the news of Saunders’ passing on SportsCenter.