Sports fans, co-workers, friends and family are mourning the sudden loss of long-time ESPN host John Saunders.
Saunders passed away on Wednesday at the age of 61. His family confirmed the incredibly sad news in a statement issued yesterday evening shortly after news of his death began to circulate around the Internet. “This tragic news brings us unspeakable sorrow,” the Saunders family said. “John was the patriarch of our family, and we can’t believe he is gone. We are sincerely touched by the outpouring of support and sadness, which is a reflection of the character and integrity that defined him.”
While little has been made public about the cause of Saunders’ death just yet, the family did reveal that he hadn’t been feeling well recently and was found unresponsive early Wednesday morning. “While we don’t yet have all the specifics, John wasn’t feeling well physically in recent days and sadly, he was unresponsive earlier this morning. We appreciate all of the thoughts and prayers for our cherished father, husband, brother and uncle.”
As the sports community and countless others continued to come to terms with Saunders’ passing, Good Morning America host Robin Roberts took to her social media pages to honor her long-time friend and thank everyone for their support. “The outpouring of love and support for my dear friend #JohnSaunders is comforting,” she wrote in an Instagram caption.
Roberts later paid tribute to Saunders on Thursday morning during her daily GMA segment, while others including Kobe Bryant and ESPN journalist Jemele Hill also took to social media to send their condolences and express sadness over the news.
WANT MORE FROM ESSENCE? Subscribe to our daily newsletter for the latest in hair, beauty, style and celebrity news
He and I were just together last Friday at NABJ. He was such a champion for myself and SO many others. Devastated isn't even the word.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) August 10, 2016
Roberts and Saunders worked together for 15 years at ESPN. Like many others, she described him as a great broadcaster and “phenomenal human being.” In addition to many other notable accomplishments, Saunders was a founding board member of the Jimmy V foundation for cancer research in 1993, which has raised over $100 million in cancer research funding to date.
Saunders is survived by his wife Wanda and two daughters Jenna and Aleah.