Bill Rasmussen, who founded ESPN in 1979, announced Monday he is battling Parkinson’s disease.
Rasmussen, 86, in a first-person story on ESPN’s Front Row website, said he was diagnosed with the disease in 2014, but is sharing his diagnosis now, hoping to help others struggling with the disease and those looking for a cure.
Parkinson’s disease is a condition affecting the brain that results in the progressive loss of coordination and movement and affects between 600,000 and 1 million people in the United States alone. Rasmussen writes that though he didn’t feel different at first, growing issues with shaking hands, a slower gait and balance convinced him to share his diagnosis.
“First and foremost — I’m doing well. For a guy pushing 87, and with the help of medicine that helps treat my symptoms, I still get around quite well and continue to travel the country telling the ESPN/life lessons stories as I have for decades,” he writes. “I live in Seattle now with my amazing daughter, Sarah, a registered nurse and her incredible family, who have been on this journey with me and without whom this Parkinson’s mystery would be a lot harder to tackle.
“Now, by expanding the circle, by sharing my experiences, my hope is that I can help others who are impacted by Parkinson’s and we’ll all learn more together.”
Rasmussen said he’s out to prove that people with Parkinson’s can lead productive lives and as part of that will throw out a ceremonial first pitch Sept. 8 at Fenway Park when the Boston Red Sox play host to the New York Yankees as part of the 40th anniversary edition of Sunday Night Baseball. He will be joined by ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro.
“I’ll be talking a lot about PD in the weeks and months ahead — not as a victim, but as living, breathing proof that when you or a loved one hears the dreaded words, ‘You have Parkinson’s disease,’ life is not over — it’s just the beginning of a new chapter,” Rasmussen writes.
Rasmussen, with his son, Scott, launched ESPN on Sept. 7, 1979, using the emerging technology of satellites to deliver television programming.