Ley, who had taken a leave of absence in October, said in a statement that he will be retiring at the end of this month. He was ESPN's longest-tenured anchor.
Bob Ley’s Statement:
Across 40 years I have enjoyed a professional journey unimaginable when I joined ESPN on its first weekend of existence in 1979. Each day since has been a unique adventure, one I embraced for the challenge and unequaled fun of a job like no other.Now, it is time for change.
I will be retiring from ESPN, as of the end of the month.
To be clear, this is entirely my decision. I enjoy the best of health, and the many blessings of friends and family, and it is in that context that I’m making this change.
To Jimmy Pitaro and his senior leadership team, my sincere personal thanks for their understanding and patience over the past months.
Through the decades, and my innumerable experiences at ESPN, I have built many deep and fulfilling friendships. You know who you are. I hope you also know how much you mean to me. We have shared an American story unlike any other. And we will continue to do so in the years ahead.
I have been gifted by our viewers and consumers with a precious commodity – your trust. To be invited into your homes was a privilege I never took for granted, one I worked each day to uphold. Thank you for that.
In September, I signed off my last show saying, “I’ll catch you on the flip side.” Now it’s time to take that vinyl off the turntable (ask your folks), flip it over, and drop the needle on the B-side. There are always great cuts, and hidden gems on the B-side.
Thank you for a great run.ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro on Bob Ley:
“The standard of excellence that has become a hallmark of ESPN began in the early days when we were a start-up with a bold vision. Bob was there for all of it and, over the years, his unwavering commitment and unparalleled work ethic drove our journalistic ambitions. The best way we can thank Bob for what he’s meant to ESPN and to sports fans is to continue to uphold the journalistic integrity and principles he’s instilled in ESPN for nearly 40 years.”Ley joined ESPN on September 9, 1979, two days after the fledgling network first came on the air.
Originally a SportsCenter anchor and the leading host of ESPN’s NCAA basketball coverage, Ley quickly became the face of ESPN’s aggressive coverage of breaking news and issues. He established himself as a respected voice for ESPN’s industry-leading reporting on the most important and sometimes controversial topics in sports. From topics like doping in the Olympics and steroid use in major sports to stories about domestic violence and sexual abuse, Ley has always known how to present stories in a way that was professional, objective and smart, while serving fans in a responsible, factual manner.
Here is sampling of just some of the major sports stories Ley has lent his expertise and gravitas to:
- He provided the first live national reports during the 1989 World Series earthquake in San Francisco.
- That same year he fronted the news of Pete Rose’s indefinite suspension from Major League Baseball.
- In May 1990, Outside the Lines made its debut as ESPN’s investigative news program with Ley as the host. He would go on to host the show for the next 29 years. The first episode was a special called “When the Cheering Stops.”
- As host of Outside the Lines, Ley continued to report on some of the biggest sports stories in history including Magic Johnson’s AIDS announcement in 1991 and the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995.
- In 1998, Ley hosted an Outside the Lines special that examined the Nike sweatshops in Vietnam. The powerful reporting revealed that Nike had still been operating sweatshops with terrible conditions including managers physically abusing workers. This was one of many impactful Ley stories that led to real change.
- In 2000, Outside the Lines aired “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” a report that examined the next 100 years of the human body in sports by exploring how genetic engineering and medical breakthroughs could impact athletes.
- Less than a year later, Ley spearheaded ESPN’s coverage of the 9/11 attacks. He was the first to report that no baseball would be played that week in honor of those who lost their lives.
- Ley was one of the leading voices in challenging the game of football and its protection of players from concussions and CTE. He hosted multiple Outside the Lines reports over the years that examined the issue and shared real stories from current and former players. The investigative work they did on this topic won Ley and OTL a prestigious Peabody Award.
- In addition to the topics of concussions and CTE, Ley also was a leader in reporting on the NFL’s handling of domestic violence. When the Ray Rice video surfaced of Rice abusing his then-fiancée, Ley reported on the case from start to finish. He continued to challenge and report on domestic violence cases that followed.
- Ley led ESPN’s coverage on Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s resignation after the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse findings in 2011. Less than a decade later, the Outside the Lines investigative team reported on former U.S. gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and the hundreds of survivors he sexually abused for decades. Ley and the OTL team spent years reporting on the story and the handling of information at Michigan State. The team was recently awarded prestigious IRE and Peabody Awards for its coverage.
- Ley was at the anchor desk for virtually every major story over the past four decades including deaths of sports legends like Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer. When Ali died, Ley led ESPN’s coverage in the wee hours – along with Jeremy Schaap – and conducted hours of interviews with notable figures in Ali’s life.