Bob Costas Named Winner of Lacy-Smith Award

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Bob Costas Named Winner of Lacy-Smith Award
May 20, 2019

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Bob Costas, a nationally recognized network television commentator for nearly 40 years, is the winner of this year’s Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith award presented by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

The award, in its fifth year of existence, honors a journalist who has spent a career attempting to encourage racial and gender equality in sports.

“Bob Costas represents the best in sports broadcast journalism,” said television host Maury Povich, the son of Shirley Povich, the late Washington Post sports columnist for whom the Povich Center is named. “Bob has fought against the inequities in sports, as well as the inequalities. The Povich family is delighted that he is being honored with the Lacy-Smith award.”

Costas, 67, is a commentator for MLB Network. In January, he left NBC, where he worked for nearly 40 years covering almost every major professional sport and hosting each Olympic Games from 1992 to 2016.

Previous winners of the Lacy-Smith award are Claire Smith of ESPN, James Brown of CBS, William Rhoden, formerly of the New York Times and now ESPN’s The Undefeated, and Michael Wilbon of ESPN and formerly a sports columnist of The Washington Post.

“I’m humbled to join such a list of esteemed previous winners of this award,” Costas said. “Like these journalists before me, I’ve tried to be sensitive to the history related to sports and be on the right side of many important topics. I’ve always felt network television sports could have commentary on vital issues, but you need to acknowledge these issues and the elephants in the room, while doing so.

“Bill Rhoden, for instance, wrote about things I never would have thought of. He performed a great service. It’s what I’ve tried to do.”

Costas will receive the award at a luncheon in his honor, Sunday, May 26, at Nationals Park, in Washington, D.C., before a game between the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals.

Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith spent much of their newspaper careers advocating fairness, equality and justice in sports, including reporting, columnizing and lobbying for the integration of modern-day Major League Baseball that occurred in 1947 when Jackie Robinson began playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Lacy worked at his craft for more than 80 years, primarily as sports editor of the Baltimore Afro-American. He was the first African-American member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWA). Lacy died in 2003, at the age of 99.

Smith covered the Negro Leagues for a number of newspapers, including the Pittsburgh Courier and Chicago Defender and Chicago Herald-American. He was on the scene when Brooklyn’s Branch Rickey signed Robinson in the fall of 1945; covered Robinson’s year in the minor leagues at Triple-A Montreal in 1946 and his rookie year with the Dodgers in 1947 – all portrayed in the film “42.” Smith died in 1972 at the age of 58.

Both Lacy and Smith relentlessly covered MLB meetings for years, often excluded from official sessions but working in hotel lobbies and interviewing owners regarding integration. After the Boston Red Sox passed on Robinson and two other black players at a 1945 tryout, Rickey signed Robinson that fall.

Both Lacy and Smith were often excluded from segregated press boxes during that period, resulting in their covering the games from the rooftops of ball parks or in the stands. Lacy and Smith were honored with the Red Smith Award from the nation’s sports editors (APSE) for their lifelong contributions to sports journalism; Lacy in 1998 and Smith in 2014.

“It is impossible to comprehend the indignities these two journalists endured to write and cover what we all know was right and fair,” said George Solomon, director of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism. “That the Povich Center and Povich family honors Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith says something about not only them, but the late Shirley Povich’s legacy in his 75 years writing for The Washington Post.”

Costas, born in Queens, N.Y., and raised in Commack, N.Y., is a 1974 graduate of the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. He worked at NBC, from 1980 to 2019, broadcasting, reporting and commentating on nearly every sport, including hosting 11 Olympic Games. His commentaries were often controversial, including his 2017 discussion at Maryland on the dangers of football and previous questions of the use of the name Redskins by Washington’s pro football team.

In addition to his 28 Emmys, among other honors won by Costas include the Ford Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, eight National Sportscaster of the Year honors, induction into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the Walter Cronkite award for broadcasting excellence. He also has drawn praise for his work with HBO, his show “Later…with Bob Costas.”

“Bob has been an essential part of MLB Network since its debut 10 years ago, on Jan. 1, 2009,” said MLB Network president Rob McGlarry. “His lifelong passion for the game is evident in everything he’s done throughout his acclaimed Hall of Fame award-winning career in baseball.”

The second winner of the award, CBS’s James Brown, said of Bob Costas: “He set the standard for all of us and has for a long time. With 28 Emmys to his credit, I think that says it all.”

For more information on the luncheon at Nationals Park and to purchase tickets, please contact Katie Aune, assistant dean of external relations, at kaune@umd.edu

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