NABJ Sports Task Force honors local ‘exemplary people’

 

2015 Sam Lacy Award winners join a long list of greats

TSOECharlesHallmansquarehe Sam Lacy Pioneer Awards is a major event during the NABJ Convention held this week in Minneapolis. It is hosted by the NABJ Sports Task Force, a group of Black print, broadcast and on-line sports journalists, including the MSR, which celebrates local sports figures from the convention’s host city.

This year’s event is scheduled for Friday, August 7, 6:30 pm at the downtown Minneapolis Hilton.

“We try to make sure to cover the different genders, the different sports, and it has worked out quite well,” noted Morehouse College Journalism and Sports Program Director Ron Thomas. “It’s very important that we pick worthy people.” He and longtime Twin Cities sports journalist Ray Richardson are co-hosts.

The award is named for the late legendary sportswriter Sam Lacy, who wrote for the Baltimore Afro-American and other Black newspapers “until he was 99,” said Thomas in an MSR phone interview. “He was very, very outspoken. He was very much involved in Jackie Robinson’s start with the Dodgers. He pushed integration in all sports.”

And the 2015 Sam Lacy Pioneer Award winners are…

Alan Page, a 1988 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, who played 11 of his 15 pro seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and then became an attorney after retiring as a player. He was a State Supreme Court justice for 22 years and started an educational foundation that has awarded over 9,000 college scholarships to more than 6,000 children in Minnesota.

Linda Roberts, the only Black female Gopher basketball player whose jersey hangs in Williams Arena, was an outstanding college women’s basketball player before it became an NCAA sport in the early 1970s. She told the MSR that to be included among this year’s honorees is indeed an honor.

Bill McMoore was the only Black student in the University of Minnesota’s education department and on its football and boxing teams and ranked second in the nation as a light heavyweight. He later became a Minneapolis school teacher and administrator, then the Minnesota Timberwolves community relations director.

Tony Oliva’s Twins number six was retired in 1991 — he finished his 14-year baseball career with a .304 batting average, 220 home runs and 947 RBI.

Briana Scurry is considered among the most successful Black U.S. soccer players ever when she as goalie helped the U.S. win the 1999 World Cup with her stop of an overtime shootout kick.

 Donald Hunt of the Philadelphia Tribune (see this week’s “In Our View”) with 2011 Sam Lacy Pioneer Award-winner Joe Frazier; Ron Thomas is standing at left.
Donald Hunt of the Philadelphia Tribune (see this week’s “In Our View”) with 2011 Sam Lacy Pioneer Award-winner Joe Frazier; Ron Thomas is standing at left.

LaVelle Neal III is the 2015 Sports Task Force Journalist of the Year. He has covered baseball for 21 years, 18 as the Twins beat reporter. He became the first Black in 2013 to be elected president of the prestigious Baseball Writers Association of America.

“NABJ has been great for me,” Neal told the MSR. It “helped me get my job here and not let me feel alone in this business. I look forward to sharing the moment with my fellow colleagues and my friends in Minneapolis.”

Ron Thomas, right, with Sam Lacy Award-winning sports promoter Don King holding a copy of Sam Lacy’s book Fighting for Fairness, which is given to all winners Photo courtesy of Ron Thomas
Ron Thomas, right, with Sam Lacy Award-winning sports promoter Don King holding a copy of Sam Lacy’s book Fighting for Fairness, which is given to all winners Photo courtesy of Ron Thomas

Thomas says the 2015 awardees are “exemplary people” and join a lengthy list of honorees over the years that include among others the daughters of Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige, gymnast Dominique Dawes, and swimmer Maria Correia; Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first Black player; and Boston Red Sox Vice President Elaine Weddington Steward, the first Black female high-ranking baseball team executive.

“One of my biggest thrills was when we honored Joe Frazier [in 2011],” recalled Thomas, an award-winning sportswriter and editor for four decades before he accepted his present position. “They had to wheel Joe in in a wheelchair. But he got a cane and used the cane to come up to the podium when it came time for him to get his award. He told us how much he appreciated it, and then he broke into this Muhammad Ali imitation. That was great. He died a few months afterwards.”

“Not all of the people we honor are Black,” stated Thomas. “Brian McIntyre, one of the original PR people with the NBA, has been supportive of Black writers. We gave him an award in appreciation of that. We also honored Richard Lapchick because he has written and spoken out so much on racism in sport.”

“I’m wonderfully humbled for the award,” said Neal.

Roberts added how important it is that she is being honored by people “who look like her.”

“It becomes very special because it’s Black journalists who are honoring [them],” said Thomas.

 

Philadelphia Tribune Sportswriter Donald Hunt, a 2011 Sam Lacy Pioneer Award winner is featured in this week’s “Another View.” The MSR also will provide reports from the 2015 Sam Lacy Pioneer Awards on our website.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.