In honor of Black History Month, we’ll set aside space to honor some of the pioneers who paved the way for minorities in sports media. Obviously, we can’t get to everyone, so if we leave someone out, please understand.
Over the years, there have been a number of writers who’ve had that strong, unique voice that’s stood out from their colleagues. However, few have had that “umph” in print that the late Ralph Wiley had.
Wiley, who rose to fame at Sports Illustrated and later at Page 2, was known for the “unique perspective” who brought in each column, essay and appearances on The Sports Reporters and SportsCenter.
When he wasn’t penning one of his memorable columns, like this one on black history, he was writing books and essays including Why Black People Tend to Shout and By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of Making Malcom X. This was part of what made Wiley great — the ability to straddle the fence between sports journalism and “hard” literally writing and not miss a beat, or the “Wiley voice”
Unfortunately, Wiley died in 2004 of a heart attack while watching the NBA Finals. He left too soon. Left so many columns unwritten. But what he did leave was a blueprint of what a columnist should be. One who covers a broad range of issues, each from a unique perspective and always receive strong feedback, whether positive or negative.
He not only had an impact on those who read him religiously, but others in the media, black and white, respected him, as evident in a tribute Page 2 did after his passing.
Ralph Wiley showed us how it’s supposed to be done. There will never be another like him.