Local And National NFL Journalist Chris Mortensen Dies At 72

Longtime sports journalist Chris Mortensen, who built an extraordinary career delivering sports news to Atlanta and eventually a nationwide audience on ESPN, died today at 72.

He started his career as one of Atlanta’s most well-regarded local sports journalists, writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1983 to 1990, where he produced investigative reports on the Atlanta Braves from 1983 to 1985, and then the Atlanta Falcons the next two years. He would also cover the broader NFL for the paper as well. His reporting of local sports won him the George Polk Award in 1987.

Mortensen headed to a national platform when he joined ESPN in 1991. There he would cover the NFL with programs like “NFL GameDay”, “NFL Countdown” and “Sunday NFL Countdown”.  He also reported for ESPN’s popular sports show SportsCenter, ESPN Radio, and the ESPN website.

He also was an NFL reporter for The National and contributed stories for The Sporting News, Sport magazine, and CBS Sports.

Atlanta Falcons Chairman and Owner Arthur Blank said in a statement today: “I join the immeasurable number of hearts across the nation, in journalism and the sports community, as we morn Chris Mortensen. I’m grateful to have had the privilege of knowing Chris through his incredible work beginning at his days at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and like so many, being blessed by his professional excellence and personal grace through the many years that followed. I consider Chris a personal hero of mine and it is truly hard to imagine sports journalism without him. His ability to take on life’s obstacles with grit and determination was always truly inspiring and his enormous impact on so many, me included, will live on through his work and unwavering friendships. I send my deepest condolences to Chris’ family and friends, and pray they find peace in the honorable legacy and positive influence that Chris leaves behind.”

ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement, “Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hard-working teammate. 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 ones.”

Legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, whose career Mortensen extensively covered at ESPN, said on social media, “We lost a true legend. Mort was the best in the business and I cherished our friendship. I trusted him with my announcement to sign with the Broncos and with the news of my retirement. I will miss him dearly and my thoughts and prayers are with Micki & his family. Rest in peace, Mort.”

Others in the sports community sent thoughts and statements about Mortensen.

Image credit: ESPN