John Clayton (sportswriter)

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For other people named John Clayton, see John Clayton (disambiguation).
John Travis Clayton
Born (1954-05-11) May 11, 1954 (age 60)
Braddock, Pennsylvania
Education Churchill Area High School
Duquesne University
Occupation National Football League analyst
Sports radio host

John Travis Clayton (born May 11, 1954) is a National Football League (NFL) writer and reporter for ESPN. He is also a senior writer for


Early career[edit]

Clayton began covering sports while still a student at Churchill Area High School. Starting with the Pittsburgh Steelers' 1972 training camp, he covered the team in twice-weekly dispatches in the St. Marys, Pennsylvania Daily Press. He later wrote for Steel City Sports, a weekly publication in Pittsburgh. In 1975, Steel City Sports changed into Score! Pittsburgh and Clayton was a staff writer, covering the Steelers. He also served as a stringer for a number of radio networks, including AP Radio, and covered games, providing the network with sound clips from locker room interviews after games involving Pittsburgh's professional sports teams.

Clayton graduated from Duquesne University in 1976, and later worked for The Pittsburgh Press. He had done part-time work for the paper while attending college.

In May 1978, Clayton was sent to cover a Steelers mini-camp in place of the Press' regular Steelers beat writer, Glenn Sheeley. While there he discovered and reported a rules violation which would cost the team a draft pick. The affair was dubbed "Shouldergate" by Clayton.[1] Clayton became persona non grata for some time in his hometown for his role in the affair.[2]

Clayton eventually worked his way up to become the Steelers beat writer at the Press, before leaving the paper in 1986.[3] He moved across the country and began covering the Seattle Seahawks for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington.[3] It was at this time that he began appearing in NFL segments on Seattle sports radio station KJR (AM) on host Nanci Donnellan's program "The Fabulous Sports Babe". When Donnellan's show was picked up by ESPN for national syndication, Clayton came along as an NFL correspondent.


In 1995, Clayton joined ESPN as a reporter and later added to his duties a weekly radio show during the NFL offseason. He hosted the show with former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury; the show included "Four Downs," a debate with Salisbury over current NFL issues. Their debates often became quite heated, with Salisbury referring to Clayton as the "Cryptkeeper" and "Mr. Peabody", mocking his geeky and "eggheaded" appearance and voice, and Clayton responding by calling Salisbury "Mr. Backup" based on his limited playing time during his NFL career. There is debate as to seriousness of the animosity between Salisbury and Clayton.

Radio programs[edit]

Clayton remained a frequent contributor to KJR (AM), and hosted its "Sports Saturday" show on Saturday mornings. He is a regular caller to sports-talk radio stations around the country. Because of the transition to all-sports of KIRO (AM) Seattle, Clayton moved his show to the new ESPN station.

Awards and honors[edit]

Clayton received the Dick McCann Memorial Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.[4] This distinction puts him in the "writer's wing" of the Hall of Fame.[5]

He was also inducted into the sports hall of fame of his alma mater, Duquesne University, in 2001.[6]


On February 8, 2015 Clayton wrote an article claiming "Bill Belichick wasn't suspended for spying on practices.”[7] Clayton’s claim of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick spying on practices is a widely discredited claim[8] by John Tomasse of the Boston Herald. The Boston Herald later issued a public apology. Clayton had previously written two articles[9][10] acknowledging that the rumor of taping practices was false before publishing the article on 8 February 2015 claiming it was true.

Clayton later added a correction but did not acknowledge that his original text incorrectly stated Bill Belichick was guilty of the infraction of taping practices. Clayton's correction instead claimed he reported the details of the punishment incorrectly, when he had actually reported the infraction incorrectly. Clayton's edit added, "A Feb 8 story on incorrectly reported details around New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's NFL punishment in 2007." The original article did not make any statement about the details for New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's punishment, and a correction was not necessary. Despite claiming to correct just the punishment details in the article, Clayton did correct the text to remove the false claim that Belichick taped practices.[7]


  1. ^ Clayton, John (June 1, 1978). "Steelers' Secret Slips Out". Pittsburgh Press. pp. C–10. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  2. ^ McHugh, Roy (June 5, 1978). "To Report Or Not – That Is The Question". Pittsburgh Press. pp. C–1. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "ESPN Reporter/Pittsburgh Native John Clayton". Duquesne University. March 27, 2007. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Clayton is 2007 McCann Award winner". Pro Football Hall of Fame. July 10, 2007. Retrieved March 30, 2010. 
  5. ^ "John Clayton bio". ESPN. Retrieved May 4, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Sports Hall Of Fame: Year of Induction List". Duquesne University. Retrieved March 30, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Clayton, John. "2015 Offseason off to rocky start". ESPN. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Allen, Bruce. "Boston Herald apologizes to Patriots- Is it enough". Boston Sports Media Watch. Retrieved 14 May 2008. 
  9. ^ Clayton, John. "After the big meeting, 5 things we learned about spygate". ESPN. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  10. ^ Clayton, John. "Minus a whistle-blower, Spygate will expire quietly". ESPN. Retrieved 8 May 2008. 

External links[edit]