Locally, a full-time Black sportswriter is a rarity

Submitted photo Ray Richardson

Ray Richardson did it for nearly a quarter century

Before he relocated a couple of weeks ago to Los Angeles, Ray Richardson left his indelible mark on the Twin Cities. But even before he relocated here from Phoenix almost three decades ago, he had already made history.

Richardson is number 28 on the late Boston sportswriter Larry Whiteside’s “The Black List” on which he listed every Black sportswriter he’d met in press boxes, beginning in 1971. Whiteside died in 2007 and was posthumously inducted into both the Baseball Hall of Fame and the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.

“There are a lot more [Black sportswriters] today than when you and I first started,” Richardson told the MSR.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press hired Richardson from the Arizona Republic in 1990. “The Pioneer Press was looking for a jack-of-all-trades. One reason why I took the job—I like that.”

During his 24-year tenure there, Richardson was that paper’s only Black sportswriter. He covered every local pro team, many Gopher teams, and other sporting teams in town. “At times I felt stressed out, but I loved doing it. It was fun,” he recalled.

We asked Richardson to list in no particular order his top five beats.

  1. Gopher WBB: “That was one of my primary beats for three years.”
  2. Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves: “He coming out of high school was big.”
  3. Dennis Green, the Vikings’ first Black HC: “I did his first two years. To be around a Black HC, an NFL HC, was pretty impressive.”
  4. The Wolves’ first playoff appearance in 1997: “That was a big deal.”
  5. The 1992 Final Four at the Metrodome: “Michigan, the Fab Five; Duke, Indiana and Cincinnati were here.”

His top five personalities he enjoyed covering: “KG, Dennis Green, [former Gopher WBB coach] Brenda Oldfield [now Frese], Lindsay Whalen and Ron Gardenhire,” reported Richardson.

And his top five, plus one, unforgettable assignments:

  1. “When the Gopher WBB team beat Duke in the [2004] regional finals to qualify for the Final Four was big. They were not favored to beat Duke and pretty much handled them.”
  2. “The Dennis Green story when he was fired.”
  3. “Covering the Gopher WBB team when they were having all these issues [of several Black players who transferred]. I remember writing a lot of front-page stories about that.”
  4. Covering the National League playoffs in San Francisco for a week. “To be out there covering some big news items, that was special for me.”
  5. The Gopher MBB team coached by Clem Haskins that reached the 1990 regional finals “because I was in New Orleans for a whole week.”
  6. The Minnesota Twins being selected for contraction in 2002. “We spent three days [in Chicago] chasing that story. And it never happened.”

The rarity of being a full-time Black sportswriter at one of the Twin Cities PWM (primarily White media) for 24 years—Richardson retired from the Pioneer Press in 2014—isn’t lost on him. For the record, there are presently zero Black sportswriters at the Pioneer Press, and only two at the Star Tribune.

“My main focus was to be good enough in my work so that there would be others to come,” Richardson said. “I never hung my hat on the fact that I was one of the few Black writers out there covering the major [local] teams.

“My main focus was…to do the best work I could do so people couldn’t say I was hired because I was Black. I wanted to be just as good as the other guys across the room and across the river.”