BHM: Jemele Hill

February 26, 2008

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 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.

Usually, when you think of those making “history” you think of older people or those who have even passed away. However, there are certain instances when history is taking place right before our eyes and that’s exactly what Jemele Hill is doing.

Hill is a regular columnist on ESPN.com’s Page 2 and can often be seen on the network’s shows such as First Take and Jim Rome is Burning. Prior to joining ESPN, Hill was a columnist at the Orlando Sentinel. During that time, she was the only black female sports columnist in the nation — and we’re talking some 300-plus newspapers. It is/was that fact only that’s historic.

Often accused of playing the race card, Hill gives readers a unique perspective that generates dialogue, which is one of the main objectives of any columnist. In a white male driven industry, being able to stand her ground and write about issues that would otherwise be avoided sets her apart from writers male or female, black or white.

On the television side, when Hill is one of the few women of color you see on the sports side. I often find in interesting that not many young black females are into sports journalism, especially on the print side. It’s rare, which makes Hill’s accomplishments that much more respectable. Maybe if young girls look at what she’s done, it will change perceptions and stereotypes about the business.


BHM: Ralph Wiley

February 15, 2008

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 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.


BHM: Robin Roberts

February 9, 2008

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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.

Pictured above is Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America. Everyday, Roberts, along with Diane Sawyers and others, comes into the homes of America and get us started on our days. Years ago, it would have been unimaginable for a woman, much less a black woman to do that.

A native off Mississippi, Roberts turned down a basketball scholarship at LSU in favor of attending the smaller Southeastern Louisiana University. After a few stints at television stations around the south, Roberts was hired in 1990 by ESPN, making her the first black female sports at the network, thus opening doors for future ESPN black female on-air talent such as Sage Steele, Lisa Salters and Danyelle Sargeant.

She joined Good Morning America in 1995 and worked simultaneously with ESPN and ABC before being promoted to co-anchor of GMA full-time in 2005.

Althought she made it to “the top” all the way from the Gulf Coast, Roberts has never forgotten where she came from. This was evident during her coverage of Hurricane Katrina in which the storm destroyed parts of her hometown including her high school.

Along with Sawyers, Roberts has become one of the faces of morning television. That face was illuminated even more when she was diagnosed with breast cancer last. She went from being a role model and pioneer in the sports journalist world to a role model for women with breast cancer.

Anyone young black female aspiring to be a sports broadcaster/anchor should look no further than Roberts. She has set the standard winning 3 Emmys and continues to make strides in the field.


BHM: Sam Lacy

February 1, 2008

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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.

Pictured above is the late, great Sam Lacy, a true pioneer in sports journalism. Lacy began his career in 1920 were he was a sportswriter at the Washington Tribune. From 1934-39, Lacy was managing and sports editor for the paper.  After spending a few years in Chicago, he returned to the D.C. area where he was sports editor and columnist for the Baltimore Afro-American for nearly 60 years until his death back in 2003.

While Lacy covered all sports, he was a baseball guy at heart, covering the Baltimore-Washington area extensively. He was a huge proponent of integration, having had numerous conversations with then Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith about the subject. He also consulted with former commissioner Branch Rickey about the selection of Jackie Robinson to the first African-American player.  

While diminutive in stature, Lacy was a giant in the industry. You will never, ever in this age of digital media see a columnist stay at one place for over 50 years.  Lacy did that.

Perhaps Lacy was best know for his “A to Z” columns in the Afro-American, he was one of the first black media members to be elected to the Baseball Writers Association of America and in 1998, he was elected into the writer’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The late Ralph Wiley summed Sam Lacy up best.