It took more than a minute, but our never-ending search for Black sports fans at live Twin Cities sporting events has had some success. This year we found two Black Twins fans, a Black family at a St. Paul Saints game, and four Blacks at a Vikings game.
Contrary to some people’s belief, Blacks do like Gopher football even if they are not connected to the team as parents of the players or related to them in some way. “I’ve just been a Gopher fan ever since I was a little kid,” declared Chicago-born and Minneapolis-raised Vince Wright.
“I always love college football,” said the U of M grad. “So, when I was in a position, me and my wife were looking at getting season tickets. The Gophers won hands down for a lot of reasons.”
Wright, who also hosts his own sports podcast, guesstimates “maybe 10 to 15%” of those who attend Gopher football look like him. His simple advice to school officials: “You have got to do a better job of marketing to the Black community in terms of making tickets available, making sure that you can develop an interest in your product.”
It shouldn’t be solely up to the local PWM (primarily White media) to convince Blacks to watch Golden Gopher football, Wright told us. But stillmore must be done in this regard.
“There’s a lot of things that they can do to generate more interest, get more Black fans over to [the Gopher stadium],” said Wright of Minnesota’s sports marketing folk.
College football, whether at PWIs or HBCUs, is an experience that begins outside the stadium with tailgating. “It goes beyond the game,” noted Wright. “Gopher fans are very friendly fans.”
But also, mostly White.
“I’ve known a couple of brothers that just came down to tailgate, then go over to one of the bars and watch the game” because they didn’t have game tickets, recalled Wright. “It’s just getting folks out there, getting them around, and just letting them see what it can be like on a nice Saturday afternoon, all that pregame, postgame, that some of us do enjoy because that’s really part of the experience as well.”
Wright is an unabashed Gopher fan. His nickname is “Sports Governor of Minnesota,” given to him by Doug Stewart of 2 Live Stews when he would call into his podcast. Stewart and others later would encourage him to do his own podcast.
“So I gave it a shot, and found my way with it,” he said of his “Sports Done Wright” show, which he started five years ago. He recently secured a local pizza shop as a sponsor. “Hopefully big things will come.”
He points out that attending sports events these days in this town can be pricey. “We’re in a market where we got all the major sports. We got hockey. We got pro soccer, baseball…and we also have Division I [college] sports. A sports ticket isn’t a cheap thing nowadays. The premium for the sports dollar is huge here.”
Wright admitted that although he can afford to go to Gopher football games, he also wants to see more Blacks sitting in the stands around him. “I’m sitting there in the front row, and I paid this seat license and all that stuff. It’s a hard sell, but we got to start somewhere.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.