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Sports anchor Mark Giangreco officially out at ABC7

Giangreco had been off the air since Jan. 28, when he jokingly referred to news anchor Cheryl Burton as someone who could “play the ditzy, combative interior decorator” as part of a fictional DIY Network show.

Mark Giangreco sits at the anchor desk on the last night at ABC7 for retiring anchor Ron Magers in 2016.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mark Giangreco and ABC7 reached a separation agreement Friday that ends the popular sports anchor’s 27-year run at the station, Chicago media blogger Robert Feder reported.

Giangreco, 68, had been off the air since Jan. 28, when he jokingly referred to news anchor Cheryl Burton as someone who could “play the ditzy, combative interior decorator” as part of a fictional DIY Network show. Burton complained to management, which took Giangreco off the newscast.

Industry sources say offers already are rolling in for Giangreco, and they say it’s unlikely there’s a noncompete element to his agreement. Giangreco could resume making appearances on ESPN 1000, where he regularly joined the afternoon show “Waddle and Silvy” before the incident at ABC7.

The sources also speculate that Giangreco will be paid for the remainder of his contract, which was to run another 18 months. He had signed a multiyear deal in the fall of 2019.

ABC7 had not said a word until Friday, when president and general manager John Idler confirmed Giangreco’s termination in an email to employees. But even then, Idler didn’t address the situation with Burton. It’s believed that a nondisclosure agreement was part of the settlement.

Idler wrote: “I have some news I would like to share about a longtime member of the ABC 7 family. Mark Giangreco, who has been as influential on the Chicago sports scene as the athletes he’s covered, is moving on to a new chapter. During his career, Mark has been there and done that, covering daily highlights and championship play for every major sports franchise in this city. He has been widely recognized for reporting sports with both passion and insight. I want to thank Mark for his many contributions to ABC 7 and our viewers. I’m sure you will all join me in wishing him the very best.”

Idler included this message from Giangreco in the email: “It’s been a great run. Working at Chicago’s top station, in the country’s greatest sports town with some of the best people in the business, would be a perfect trifecta for any sports anchor. I’ve had all that and more. But I assure you I’m still going to be having fun doing other things. I want to especially thank my colleagues at ABC 7. You have made this such an incredible ride. I’m deeply grateful to all of you.”

Giangreco has been the most prominent sportscaster in Chicago for decades. The Buffalo, New York, native arrived at NBC5 in 1982 and moved to ABC7 in ’94. Retired news anchor Ron Magers worked with Giangreco at both stations and spoke reverently of his former colleague.

“I don’t use the word ‘best’ casually, but I believe he is,” Magers said recently of Giangreco’s place among sports anchors in the country. “I would match him against anyone I’ve seen or know about. He crams more into that brief sports segment than is almost humanly possible. He is the most prepared local sportscaster I have ever seen or know about.”

Giangreco always has shown a quick wit and sarcastic sense of humor on the air that endeared him to many viewers. But there had been tension between Giangreco and Burton for years, according to sources. Combined with Giangreco’s previous transgressions, his latest appears to have been the tipping point.

His most notable one came when he said former Bears running back Walter Payton looked like Gandhi in 1999, not knowing Payton had a liver disease that would kill him that year. Giangreco apologized profusely, and Payton called to forgive him.

Giangreco was suspended for two other incidents. After the Pistons won the NBA title in 2004, he aired a black-and-white video of fires and joked that it was “a typical night in Detroit.” In 2017, Giangreco called former President Donald Trump a “cartoon lunatic” and the United States a “country full of simpletons” in a tweet.