A new award named for trailblazing sportswriters Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith will be presented by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism to a sports journalist or broadcaster who has made significant contributions to racial and gender equality in sports.
The Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award will be presented annually in conjunction with the Shirley Povich Symposium at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
"All someone has to do to see how important Pittsburgh Courier sportswriter Wendell Smith was to Jackie Robinson integrating Major League Baseball is to see the movie, ‘42,’” Povich Center Director George Solomon said in a statement. “And Baltimore Afro American columnist Sam Lacy was just as important. Both men workedtirelessly over the years–writing, lobbying and cajoling MLB’s owners, many of them resistant, into trying to see the importance of integration to the future of not only the sport of baseball but to the country.”
“Wendell Smith and Sam Lacy pushed sports owners, media, corporations, players, Halls of Fame, fans–really, everyone involved in sports–to end segregation and racism and admit all athletes to top competition,” said Margaret Engel, executive director at the Alicia Patterson Journalism Foundation. “They possessed a courage and determination that changed sports forever.”
The winner will be chosen by a committee comprised of Kevin Blackistone (visiting professor, Merrill College and commentator, ESPN's "Around the Horn”), Mary Byrne (sports managing editor, USA Today), Engel, Garry Howard (editor, The Sporting News), Diana Huffman (Baltimore Sun distinguished lecturer, Merrill College), Greg Lee (sports editor of the Fort Lauderdale Sentinel and president of the National Association of Black Journalists), George Solomon (director, Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism) and Rick "Doc" Walker (commentator, ESPN-980, Comcast SportsNet).
Lacy , the 1998 winner of the APSE Red Smith Award for contributions to sports journalism, was an African-American and Native American sportswriter who was a reporter, columnist, editor and TV/Radio host. He worked for the Washington Tribune, the Chicago Defender and the Baltimore Afro-American where he wrote about baseball’s need for integration and Jackie Robinson’s ascent to the Major Leagues. He was the first African American member of the Baseball Writers of America Association. Lacy died in 2003 at the age of 99.
Smith was an African-American sportswriter who covered the Negro leagues for many African-American newspapers and boxing for the Chicago Tribune. He was also a TV sports anchor in Chicago and sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. Smith was a chronicler of Jackie Robinson for the Pittsburgh Courier and is credited with encouraging Branch Rickey to give Robinson an opportunity to play in the major leagues. Smith died in 1972 at the age of 58.