He’s leaving ESPN but keeping the ponytail, former News Tribune football writer John Clayton said Wednesday in a series of tweets.
Clayton, 63, confirmed he was included in the wave of recent layoffs at the sports network. Clayton was a high-profile NFL reporter for ESPN. In 2007, he received the Dick McCann Memorial Award, a distinction that puts him in the writer’s section of the Pro football Hall of Fame.
Clayton will continue to do his radio show on Seattle’s ESPN affiliate 710-AM, the station announced.
While he’s known for perpetually breaking news, his celebrity reached new heights thanks to an ESPN commercial, in which he is seen delivery a SportsCenter spot from his bedroom. When he finishes, he pulls of a cutoff suit top to reveal he’s wearing a cut off Slayer T-shirt. He reaches behind his head to remove a hair tie holding back a long ponytail. He then cranks up some heavy metal music, plops down on a bed and screams, “Mom! I’m done with my segment!”
The commercial was a contrast of his bookish persona that, along with his encyclopedic knowledge of football, earned him the nickname “The Professor.”
Clayton — who, for the record, does not have a ponytail — joked Wednesday that “I’m keeping the ponytail.”
Clayton started contributing to ESPN in 1995 while still covering the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL for The News Tribune.
Clayton started at The News Tribune in 1986 and helped build the newspaper’s reputation for sports coverage.
Former Seahawks’ director of communication, Gary Wright, once said that shortly after Clayton’s arrival he started seeing information in the TNT that was news even to him.
“It was my job to get the information out, but he (Clayton) had it before I did, on a regular — regular — basis, “ Wright said in a 2013 News Tribune article. “I do not say this lightly, because I’ve worked with a lot of people I have tremendous respect for, but he is by far the best reporter I’ve ever been around. By far. I mean, he is relentless.”
Clayton started covering the NFL in 1972 for small publications in Pennsylvania. He covered the Steelers for the Pittsburgh Press before moving to Tacoma.
News that Clayton was laid off spread across the internet Wednesday morning before he confirmed the reports to his 1.4 million Twitter followers.
“I guess you saw the news. After 23 years I won’t be contributing to ESPN. Two words. Thank you. My bosses and co-workers are the best,” he said in his first tweet.
Two minutes later he added two more tweets including his joke about the ponytail. Less than 20 minutes later he tweeted, “I can honestly say that my relationship with ESPN was the second best in my life. My marriage to my wife Pat is obviously No. 1.”
Clayton met Pat while working at The News Tribune in Tacoma, where she wrote a bowling column.