Both all-sports KSTP and KFXN feature all-White daily lineups. The latter often boasts that they do have two Black on-air voices, but they are only heard on weekends.
Henry Lake offers his take on why local sports media diversity is so important: “Imagine the Minnesota Wild hockey team after a game walks into their locker room, and all of the reporters that they see are people of color and not people who look like them,” he explains. “That would be something for [the mostly White players] to deal with.
“Now let’s flip that — think about [the Wolves’] Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, [the Vikings’] Everson Griffen and those individuals of color, and they walk into their clubhouse or locker room and don’t see a bunch of reporters that look like [them] who are on the radio or television in a full-time capacity.”
The Minneapolis-born Lake joined KFXN in the early 2000s and eventually co-hosted a weeknight show, then later was given his own show, but on Sunday mornings. He also was a regular on local television sports shows. But Lake eventually left the station and accepted a full-time midday slot on AM 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City in 2013.
When he left five years ago, the MSR then called Lake KFXN’s most talented but underused staffer and charged the station with needing a diversity infusion.
Lake, in an MSR exclusive interview, cited a Barnett Sports Media report that found only two of the top 30 U.S. major sports towns, San Diego and the Twin Cities, with no regular Black on-air personality on weekdays.
“Who in this community is the full-time person on any station that’s a person of color that didn’t play the game that’s on the air?” he asks. “There isn’t one, and that’s unfortunate. Something got to change,” says Lake.
Station officials this summer sought his interest in returning to his hometown, and Lake recently announced via Twitter he will return to the Twin Cities. “I want to thank all of the folks that I worked with at 610… The last five and a half years have been so much fun…but the Twin Cities is home.”
“Welcome back, Lake,” someone tweeted back. “It’ll be great to hear you on the MSP airwaves again,” tweeted another.
“Getting out of a comfort zone where you know everybody, the landscape of the town, the teams and everybody, and getting away and going somewhere else, you have to be more reliant working on your craft and your skills. It really helped mold me as a better host,” Lake says of his five-year stint on Kansas City sports radio. “I loved it and wouldn’t take away anything about it. I absolutely would take the job in Kansas City if I had to do it over again. I enjoyed my time — I learned a lot and have grown a lot.”
Lake expects to return to the KFXN airwaves sometime next month, he told the MSR last weekend. “It’s one thing to put a former Gopher or former Wolf or former Twin out there and let them speak about the game,” he continues. “But it’s drastically different when you have people that grew up in the community that have the knowledge and have opinions that represent the community, but they are not given that platform.”
The “never played the game” people speaking on sports shouldn’t be relegated to Whites only, Lake says. “People who haven’t played the game but have strong opinions and are from the community,” especially Blacks and other people of color, should be hired as well.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.