ESPN staffers said they were stunned and saddened to learn about network president John Skipper’s substance abuse problem and resignation from his job on Monday.
“John Skipper is one of the finest people I’ve ever worked for,” “SC6” co-host Jemele Hill wrote on Twitter. “He’s been incredibly supportive throughout my career at ESPN. This isn’t company-speak. I seriously cannot express how much respect I have for him.”
“I wish my boss the best in his battle,” college basketball analyst Dick Vitale wrote.
Vitale said the “most important situation is for him to get back mentally strong and get the care needed.”
ESPN reporter Michele Steele tweeted, “All and only the best to John and his family as he takes on this challenge — one that so many deal with in silence.”
Skipper’s substance abuse struggle was not well known within the company.
ESPN broke its own news about Skipper through a story on ESPN.com around 11 a.m. Eastern on Monday. An internal announcement went out to staffers.
“It has been my absolute privilege to serve as president of ESPN,” Skipper wrote.
His resignation takes effect immediately.
Longtime staffers described Skipper as a caring boss.
Anchor Stan Verrett recalled Skipper’s outreach after Verrett’s father died two years ago.
2 years ago my dad died right before the NBA finals. He was my hero. My mom insisted he would want me to do my job. So I did. At game 1, John Skipper asked me "are we doing all we can for you?" That's the kind of man he is. I wish him the best as he conquers this challenge.
— stan verrett (@stanverrett) December 18, 2017
Soccer producer Chris Alexopoulos wrote on Twitter that when Skipper, the network’s president since 2012, “came into to the truck or attended a meeting, there was no tension or fear, always respect and friendliness. Those that work in TV know that’s incredibly rare.”
College football writer Ivan Maisel said Skipper was “far and away the best CEO I have had” in a 36-year career.
And ESPN anchor Lisa Kerney said Skipper “always made time for me and made sure my voice was heard.”
“My best to John and his family as they navigate this difficult time,” she tweeted.
ESPN senior writer Don Van Natta Jr. said on Twitter that Skipper is “my friend and one of my heroes. I wish him and his family all the best.”
Rival broadcasters and other sportswriters also expressed support for Skipper.
“Can’t even imagine the courage it took to face addiction so publicly,” former ESPN columnist and host Jane McManus wrote. “Wishing John Skipper the strength he will need to face it.”
Another former ESPN host and writer, Rick Reilly, said “John Skipper is one of the finest men I’ve ever known. Proud to call him a friend. I wish him strength and peace.”