2009 Sam Lacy Pioneer Award winners announced

Editor’s note: On June 29, The National Association of Black Journalists Sports Task Force announced its 2009 Class of the Sam Lacy Pioneer Awards, the group’s highest honor. These are the recipients.

Maritza Correia

Maritza Correia

Maritza Correia — She is the first Black female to make US Olympic team as a swimmer, and a silver medalist (400m relay) in the 2004 Games. Correia attended Tampa Bay Technical High School and joined the school’s swimming team. In 1999, she became the U.S. National Champion in the 50m freestyle in the 18 and under category. She was also a six time Florida High School State Champion in the 5 different events. In 1999, Correia joined the University of Georgia Lady Bulldogs Swimming and Diving Team. She aided the team when they won their title in the 400m freestyle relay. She earned a share of the SEC Commissioner’s Trophy for high point honors. First and only swimmer in SEC history to win an SEC title in all Freestyle events. During her college career she was a 27-time All-American, and 11-Time NCAA Champion.

Ken Riley and Doug Williams appear together in this 2001 photo.

Ken Riley and Doug Williams appear together in this 2001 photo.

Doug Williams — Williams was drafted in the first round (17th overall) by the Tampa Bay Bucs and led them to three playoff appearances, including the 1979 NFC title game. Later, he became the first and only black quarterback to win the Super Bowl, when he led the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl XXII. Today he is director of professional scouting for the Bucs.

Ken Riley — Riley was a top NFL cornerback who played his entire 15-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals. Riley recorded 65 interceptions in his career, which was the fourth most in Pro Football history at the time of his. Before his professional career, Riley played quarterback for Florida A&M University. In addition to being a skilled athlete, Riley also excelled academically. He earned his team’s scholastic award and a Rhodes Scholar Candidacy. In 1986, he took over as the head coach of his alma mater, Florida A&M. Riley coached Florida A&M from 1986-1993, compiling a 48-39-2 record, with two Mid-Eastern Athletic conference titles and 2 MEAC coach of the year awards. Riley then served as Florida A&M’s athletic director from 1994-2003. He is now retired and living in his hometown of Bartow, Florida.

LeRoy Selmon

LeRoy Selmon

LeRoy Selmon — Selmon was a two-time national champion at Oklahoma, and the first pick of the 1976 NFL draft for the Tampa Bay Bucs. In 1976, Selmon was the first player picked in the NFL draft, the first-ever pick for the then-brand-new expansion team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He joined older brother Dewey, who was a second round pick of the Bucs. In his first year, Lee Roy won the team’s Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. Selmon went to six straight Pro Bowls and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1979. A back injury made the 1984 season his last, and the Bucs retired his number, 63, in 1986. He finished his career with 78.5 sacks. The Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway is named for him, as is a chain of restaurants. The chain, aptly titled Lee Roy Selmon’s, was named one of the 10 best sports bars in America in 2009 it’s motto is Play Hard. Eat Well. And Don’t Forget to Share. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

Jim Dent

Jim Dent

Jim Dent — Dent was born in the golf mecca of Augusta, Georgia, home of the Masters Tournament, though as an African American he wouldn’t have been allowed onto the Augusta National course at the time, except as a caddie. He caddied both at Augusta National and at Augusta Country Club as a boy. Dent turned pro in 1966. During his regular (under 50) career he was Florida PGA Champion three times. However he is mainly notable for his success on the Senior PGA Tour (now Champions Tour), where he won 12 tournaments between 1989 and 1998.

Fred Goodall

Fred Goodall

Fred Goodall — Goodall is a long time sports journalist and mentor, writes for the Associated Press in Tampa. He will be honored with the organization’s journalism award.

A merit award will be presented Brian McIntyre of the NBA, who has helped provide long time support for the Pioneer Ceremony and NABJ.

The winners will be honored at the NABJ Convention in Tampa on August 7. The ceremony also includes presenting two students with Larry Whiteside Scholarships.

Cutbacks hurt diversity in sports departments

By David Ubben

Last year, Ivan Orozco told the story of a San Diego-area soccer player whose mother had been deported to Mexico, tearing apart his family in an all-too-common scenario within his California community. But after the San Diego Union-Tribune’s most recent round of layoffs—which included Orozco—stories like that might not be told so often.

“Those stories are everywhere, but they just won’t get told to some writers,” said Orozco, who covered high school sports, soccer and boxing for the Union-Tribune. “A lot of the people in this community just won’t relate to you if you’re not Latino.”

For a community whose population is more than a quarter Latino, that could be a problem for newspapers already trying to survive unstable times.

Orozco felt that some sports the Latino population embraced, namely boxing and soccer, don’t get the play the community demands. But Union-Tribune sports editor Chuck Scott says on nights the Southern California freeways will be jammed with fans trying to get a glimpse of the Mexican national team, the paper will provide extensive attention in advance of the event, and significant coverage in the following morning’s paper.

“It troubles me when you lose people who represent diverse categories of people,” Scott said. But we’ve lost a boatload of people of all ages, races and ethnicities.”

The issue of losing writers who reflect diverse readerships is not unique to San Diego. Terrance Harris covered Texas A&M football for the Houston Chronicle before he was laid off on March 24. That round of layoffs eliminated the jobs of six black employees.

“We disproportionately took a hit,” Harris said.

Chronicle sports editor Carlton Thompson does not agree. He called reflecting his community a “priority” and pointed out that while others lost their jobs, the Chronicle still employs a black columnist and sports editor, along with several female and Latino writers.

The budget strains haven’t been limited to newspapers. Justice Hill, formerly an editor for MLB.com, lost his job after a round of layoffs in Dec. 2008. Hill also helped recruit interns for the Web site and said it’s important for minorities to be integral parts of the continuing growth online.

“The Internet world seems dominated by white males,” Hill said. “If they don’t bring in minority voices, pretty soon it’s going to look like newspapers did 25 years ago.”

Hill worries that his concerns sound more like complaints that lack solutions. In today’s market, both inside and outside the world of journalism, his ideas, by his own admission, simply aren’ t feasible.

“Newspapers are just handcuffed in trying to fix these things,” Hill said. “There’s no solution, in this economy, that pleases everybody.”

No immediate solutions, that is. But that’s not to say an answer won’t arrive.

“Any young writer I see, I tell them, ‘Don’t aspire to be writers or copy editors,’” Orozco said. “Be the people who make those decisions, and help solve these problems.”

Quite frankly, Smith in limbo

Stephen A. Smith
APSE Bulletin Staff Writer

The NBA is the sport that made Stephen A. Smith famous. It’s the sport that he never gets tired of talking about. It’s the sport that has made him a respected and high-profile sports journalist for more than a decade.

But during the NBA postseason this year, Smith was nowhere to be seen or heard. Instead of offering opinions on such topics as whether Kobe Bryant is better than LeBron James on the multiple ESPN platforms, Smith was relegated to the role of a spokesperson for the fairly new VitaminWater campaign of “The Great Debate.”

Like many journalists these days, he is looking for a job.

In May, Smith left ESPN after more than five years. The network and Smith could not reach a deal on a new contract after a month of trying.

“I wanted to be in a position where I didn’t have to depend on one entity to market me and to control my brand,” Smith said of his situation. “I wanted to be in a position where I could control that myself.”

At the moment, Smith does not know where his career is headed.

While he doesn’t want to leave sports, he said sports may not be his next gig. Smith said he still wants to work in television or radio, but, more than anything else, he wants to get back to work as soon as he can.

“I don’t just want to be an NBA20guy,” Smith, 41, said. “I don’t want my career to be dependant upon two television networks that have the NBA contracts.”

With ESPN, Smith, whose outspoken opinions earned him the nickname “Screamin’ A,” was a media personality who influenced columnist and colleague Jemele Hill.

“His style was so unique that you never forgot it,” Hill said. “During the time he did sports, I think he developed a brand and a signature that really no one else has. He is not afraid to call people out and make his opinions heard.”

With ESPN, Smith appeared on the morning show “First Take” on ESPN2, did a regular radio show, wrote for ESPN The Magazine and was part of news shows across the network, primarily to discuss the NBA.
Smith, a former Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist, also hosted the short-lived late-night television show called “Quite Frankly.”

It was that show where Smith picked up his passion for television. It was also that experience that showed Smith he could do something other than sports.

Smith said he felt bad that he was limited to just talking sports on the show when so many other topics interested him. “That was something that was extremely difficult for me to stomach,” he said.

Even though Smith said that sports alone isn’t fulfilling, he said he will always be willing to talk sports. Then again, he knows he could talk sports on the radio and television bett er than any other subject.

“I still love sports,” Smith said. “I’m not going to limit myself to just this one thing for the rest of my life. I can’t do it.”