Rhoden to be Honored with the Lacy-Smith Award


Rhoden to be Honored with the Lacy-Smith Award
Sep 19, 2016

COLLEGE PARK – William C. Rhoden, who for 33 years graced the sports pages of The New York Times, including the past 26 writing the Sports of The Times column, is the 2016 winner of the third annual 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 is given to a sports journalist who has made significant contributions to racial and gender equality in sports.

Past winners of the award are Claire Smith, a news editor at ESPN, and James Brown of CBS-TV.

Rhoden, who retired from The Times this past July, spent a career writing about race, inclusion and justice, just as the late sportswriters Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith, for whom the award is named.

A committee from the Povich Center chose Rhoden for the honor, as well as selecting Jimmy Roberts ’79 of NBC-TV and the Golf Channel and sportswriter and editor Susan Fornoff ’79 for “Distinguished Terrapin” Awards; American Sports Network commentator Monica McNutt, a 2013 graduate of the Merrill College Master’s program, the winner of the “Rising Star” award; with special recognition to  former University System of Maryland chancellor, UM President and Knight Commission Co-Chairman William “Brit” Kirwan and D.C. Sports Commission Co-Chairman Alan Bubes.

Rhoden, who is a Povich Center Advisory Board member, will receive the Lacy-Smith award at a luncheon on the University of Maryland campus on Wednesday, Nov. 16, along with the other honorees. That night, the 11th annual Shirley Povich Symposium, moderated by Maury Povich, will take place – the topic being “The Future of Sports on Television.”

“It’s a great honor to get an award named after my mentor and lifelong friend Sam Lacy,” said Rhoden.  “And also to be connected to Wendell Smith. Growing up in Chicago, I’ll always remember Wendell Smith on television – how professional he looked and how much of an impression that made on me at the time.

“They were surely a one-two punch as activists and solidified my role in what I wanted to do in my life and career.”

After growing up in Chicago, Rhoden attended and graduated from Morgan State University in Baltimore, went to work at the Baltimore Afro-American where he was mentored by Sam Lacy, the newspaper’s sports editor.

He later worked four years at Ebony Magazine and three years at The Baltimore Sun before joining The New York Times in 1981 as a copy editor on the Sunday Week in Review section. Rhoden has also written a number of books, including the widely acclaimed “Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Black Athlete” and accumulated countless television and film credits.

“As with Claire Smith and James Brown, Bill Rhoden epitomizes everything Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith stood for during their storied and often difficult careers,” said George Solomon, the Director of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism. “Bill Rhoden is a great sports columnist and champion of what should be right in sports.”

In his final column for The Times that appeared on July 24, Rhoden wrote that he took his lead from the retirement 50 years ago of Pro Football Hall-of-Fame running back Jim Brown. “I simply decided, as Brown did 50 years ago, that this has got to end at some point. I took control of the narrative, as he had. In July 1966, the sense I got from Brown as he announced his retirement was that he was merely moving from one stage to another. And he was. Brown would become an actor, an activist and an author.  So it is with me. There are more games to play. Rather than say goodbye, let me simply say:  To be continued.”

About Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith

Both sports journalists are credited for pushing, lobbying and prodding Major League Baseball for years to integrate, with the Brooklyn Dodgers finally signing Jackie Robinson in late 1945. Robinson played for Brooklyn’s AAA team in Montreal in 1946 before becoming “Rookie of the Year” for the Dodgers in 1947.

Lacy, who died in 2003 at the age of 99, worked for the Washington Tribune and Chicago Defender, before beginning a six-decade career for the Afro-American newspapers that were distributed in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. A graduate of Howard University, he won the J.G. Taylor Spink award in 1997 and the Red Smith Award presented by the Associated Press Sports Editors in 1998. He also is enshrined in the Maryland Media Hall of Fame.

Wendell Smith, a graduate of West Virginia State College, died in 1972 the age of 58. He won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award in 1993 and co-authored with Jackie Robinson: “Jackie Robinson: My Own Story.” In 2014 he was awarded the Red Smith Award from APSE. He had a storied career at the Pittsburgh Courier and later the Chicago American before becoming a sports commentator for WGN-TV in Chicago.

About the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism is a resource for journalists, academics and the public who want to explore the complex role of sports in society. The Center hosts panel discussions, workshops, symposiums and a summer camp for high school students. The Center is led by its Director, George Solomon, who was Assistant Managing Editor for Sports at The Washington Post from 1975-2003, and Assistant Director Beth Mechum.


George Solomon, Director




Beth Mechum, Assistant Director



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