Once again this year, both our columns “Another View” and “Sports Odds and Ends” each week provided unabashed and often unprecedented coverage of women sports, Black coaches, Black players and Black people, staying true to our primary mission to provide readers news and information they can’t or won’t find anywhere else.
“When are we going to get that shot?” asked a current Black assistant football coach named Rob (not his real name) in a two-part early January column titled “Unbalanced scales” on hiring Blacks as head coaches.
“I got into this long conversation…” on the importance of diversity with a collegepresident at the annual NCAA convention in January, recalled Augsburg Assistant Athletic Director Jennifer Jacobs, the only Black female in this role among Minnesota colleges and universities and a member of the NCAA diversity and inclusion committee.
We provided timely criticism and commentary, such as the “media crucifixion” of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after the Super Bowl, in the words of Missouri Professor Cynthia Frisby, who is nationally renowned for her research on how Blacks and other people of color are portrayed in the media.
We criticized the local teams this year, not unlike previous years, on their meager diversity hiring. And we later reported that after such a column on the Twins, three of four new hires this off-season are Black.
The Minnesota Lynx players this summer took a simple but bold step and led in protesting police-related shootings of Blacks by wearing T-shirts. Local high-schoolers later took a knee or locked arms during the National Anthem in similar protests.
“A new chapter of resistance is being written each and every day in front of our eyes,” declared The Nation Sports Columnist Dave Zirin. He and St. Paul native Royce White both spoke in September at St. Paul’s East Side Freedom Library. We reported it.
“The Only One,” a regular contributor (this columnist when he finds himself the only Black person present), watched the first outside NHL game played at the Gophers football stadium; the American Association All-Star Game and home run derby, where two Black players were the finalists; the first contest staged at the new Vikings stadium; and our first-ever golf game — the Ryder Cup. “I don’t think I’ve seen more than 10 [Black] folk,” observed a Black New Yorker on the course.
We also did our first-ever March Madness road trip series, which included NCAA Sweet 16 women’s basketball contests in St. Paul; college hockey tourney games on both sides of the Mississippi; an NBA D-League game in Grand Rapids, Michigan; and the first time all three NCAA division champions were crowned at the same site, the Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis, where a Black woman, Auncha Browne, was in charge.
“There are so many wonderful stories that can be covered that would help build momentum to this championship,” said Browne in an MSR interview. She was honored by the city “for her work and commitment to the Indianapolis community.”
This year’s “Gopher 100” series featured profiles of Black U of M players like Ciara Gardner, the team’s only Black gymnast. “I’ve been used to that my whole life,” said the sophomore. And like freshman hitter Alexis Hart, who made the Big Ten all-freshman team and was a key performer in the Gophers’ second consecutive volleyball Final Four run.
Our ambitious “20 in 20” series this year commemorated the WNBA’s 20th season with nearly 50 articles on past and present players and coaches, including two sit-down interviews with President Lisa Borders and a phone interview with founding president Val Ackerman.
We also saw the greatest three minutes ever in Game 5 of the W Finals in downtown Minneapolis.
As 2016 slowly fades into history, our columns in 2017 will continue reporting new history as it is made.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.