‘Dean of Sports Columnists’ Takes New York Times Buyout

William C. Rhoden in 2015Craig Barritt/Getty Images

William C. Rhoden, the “dean of sports columnists” in one appraisal, told readers Sunday that he is leaving the New York Times after nearly 35 years, 26 of them writing the “Sports of The Times” column.

The Times offered buyout packages and “50 Guild Newsroom colleagues will leave under this buyout and one Guild member from the business side also will go,” the News Guild of New York announced Tuesday.


Times Sports Editor Jason Stallman told Journal-isms by telephone that “we certainly can hope” that an African American would replace Rhoden. “Those are big shoes to fill,” Stallman said. He agreed that the replacement “probably” would have to come from outside the Times.

Gregory H. Lee Jr., a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists and of its Sports Task Force, called Rhoden “the dean of sports columnists” Monday in alerting colleagues to Rhoden’s column.

“To me he is the dean of all sports columnists,” Lee told Journal-isms by email. “Rhoden and [Michael] Wilbon are the gold standard and role models for black sports journalists but Rhoden is the model for all sports journalists.” Lee is director of editorial content for NBA.com and Turner Sports.

Rhoden told Journal-isms by telephone Monday that his departure will leave him time to work on his next book, a successor to the 2006 “Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete (scroll down), to continue his “BROS” (“Bill Rhoden on Sports”) podcasts and to mentor classes of Master of Fine Arts students at Brooklyn College who have shadowed him on assignment since May 2015.


His purpose, he said, will be to place more “young black writers in the pipeline” who will emerge as “people in power” in journalism, such as Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet, who is African American.

Rhoden, a former jazz critic at the Baltimore Sun, said his book will “expand the field of play” to include sports, jazz, racism and black culture.


In 2014, Tambay A. Obenson of IndieWire described “Forty Million Dollar Slaves” as “a provocative, loaded assessment of the state of black athletes in America, using the cutting metaphor of the plantation to describe a present-day sports industry that’s essentially defined by white ownership and black labor.” Obenson wrote amid the controversy over Donald Sterling, then owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. Sterling had told his girlfriend not to bring black people — including Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson — to his games.

Sterling lost ownership of the team and was expelled from the NBA. Obenson recommended that Rhoden’s book be made into a film.


Rhoden is also working with others on a reunion of African American alumni of the Times newsroom.

For most of his Times career, Rhoden has been the only African American reporter in the sports department, though fellow black journalist Randy Archbold is now deputy sports editor, an appointment Rhoden credits to Baquet.


“I guess I will always have an affiliation with the New York Times,” Rhoden told Journal-isms. “It’s been such a great institution and important part of my life and my career.”

In his farewell column, Rhoden said he was influenced by the way Jim Brownstunned the nation by announcing his retirement from the Cleveland Browns in July 1966, at age 29. . . .


“Brown’s retirement stands out because he defied a wealthy white owner who insisted on controlling the narrative,” Rhoden wrote.

“Players always say that what they miss most about the game when they leave are their teammates.


“I have certainly savored my relationships with my co-workers, conversations with editors about column ideas and their execution, and press box interactions with colleagues from across the country and throughout the world.

“What I have appreciated more than anything has been the interaction with readers. Times readers in particular are sophisticated, insightful, critical and curious. I’m grateful to all who over the years have taken time to read, respond and, of course, critique.


“When I spoke to Brown about our respective decisions to move on — his in 1966, mine in 2016, he pointed out a critical difference.

“ ‘You still have your mind, and it’s as sharp as ever and for the next 10 years it might be the same way,’ he said. Brown said he knew that had he continued playing, ‘it was only a matter of time before the physicality of the game would have caught up with me.’


“ ‘If I had the chance to play football and just use my mind, I might be trying to play now,’ he said.

“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. . . .”

Brazile Interim DNC Chair; Network Deals on Hold

CNN and ABC News have suspended Donna Brazile’s contributor agreements as she takes the reins of the Democratic National Committee,” Hadas Gold reported Monday for Politico.


“ ‘With news of Donna Brazile stepping in as interim chair for the Democratic National Committee, CNN and Brazile have mutually agreed to temporarily suspend her contract as a contributor for the network effective immediately. As a valued voice and commentator, CNN will revisit the contract once Brazile concludes her role,’ a CNN spokeswoman said in an email on Sunday.

“An ABC News spokeswoman confirmed that Brazile will be stepping down as a contributor while serving as interim chair.


“Brazile will keep all her on-air commitments to CNN this week in an unpaid capacity.

“Brazile will serve as interim chair for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is stepping down at the end of the convention following hacked emails showing Wasserman Schultz speaking negatively about Sen. Bernie Sanders and his campaign. . . .”


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Anthony Ponce took to video to explain that he had a second job while he was at Chicago’s WMAQ-TV.


‘Why I Quit NBC: The Full Story’

Robert Feder reported July 12 that Anthony Ponce, whose brother and father are also on air in Chicago television news, resigned as reporter and weekend morning news anchor at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. In a video called on Facebook “Why I Quit NBC: The Full Story,” Anthony Ponce confirms that he was leaving because he was passed over for promotion to weekday morning news anchor after the departure of Stefan Holt.


Ponce discloses in the video that he took a second job four months ago as a driver for Lyft, saying it is the “perfect place for intimate one-on-one interviews and access to people from all walks of life.” Ponce says he will now produce “Backseat Rider,” “coming August 2016 to a smartphone near you.”

Latinos Not So Taken by Anglos Speaking Spanish

Just because a political candidate speaks Spanish doesn’t mean the candidate understands Hispanic communities, and journalists shouldn’t leave viewers and readers with that impression, according to an advisory issued by National Association of Hispanic Journalists president Mekahlo Medina,” Tracie Powell wrote Saturday for alldigitocracy.org.


“ ‘We want to give you some guidance in reference to ethnicity and language while covering the Presidential race,’ Medina wrote. ‘Speaking Spanish does not make someone ethnic, it does not automatically make them understand an ethnicity or a community of people or give them a perspective of an ethnic person.’

“News reports Friday of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s pick of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her vice presidential running mate prompted NAHJ’s advisory. . . .”


Other leaders of Hispanic journalists echoed Medina’s sentiments on social media. In the Washington Post, Ed O’Keefe wrote Sunday that nonjournalists felt the same way.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton considered two Latino contenders for her running mate, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, and ultimately chose Sen. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia, in part because he is fluent in Spanish,” O’Keefe wrote.


“That linguistic mastery factored in at all is a testament to the growing clout of the Hispanic electorate. But the idea that Castro and Perez would have struggled to woo Latino voters because they do not speak Spanish as confidently as Kaine — a notion advanced primarily by non-Hispanic news organizations and political consultants — reflects a deep misunderstanding of the fast-growing voting bloc. . . .”

Suzanne Gamboa, NBC Latino: What Do Latinos Think of Clinton’s VP Pick Tim Kaine?

Developer Roger Mumford with an architect’s rendering of the T. Thomas Fortune house as it would appear after restoration. (Credit: John T. Ward/redbankgreen.com)

T. Thomas Fortune Home Saved After 10-Year Fight

A decade-long effort to save an endangered artifact of African-American history cleared a major milestone Thursday night when the Red Bank zoning board approved a developer’s plan to rebuild the T. Thomas Fortune house and create 31 apartments on its one-acre property,” John T. Ward reported Friday for redbankgreen.com, an online news source for Red Bank, N.J.


“Borough-based homebuilder Roger Mumford, who vowed to restore and donate the house for use as a cultural center before he would seek certificates of occupancy for the apartments, was hailed as the last-chance savior of a vital relic of the civil rights movement that its current owners want to raze. Residents told the board before its vote that Mumford deserved the tradeoff of more than a dozen variances, most of them arising from the apartment plan.

“ ‘If a development project has ever given back to the community, it’s this one, said Kalman Pipo, a member of the borough’s Historic Preservation Commission. ‘If this project doesn’t go through, we are going to lose this house’ to the wrecking ball, he said.


Fortune, a black journalist and activist, lived from 1856 to 1928 and edited the New York Age, the most widely read black newspaper of its day. Supporters want to use the Victorian house as a community cultural and educational center to teach children about the state’s diversity.

In a news release, Gilda Rogers, a former reporter at the Asbury Park Press in Neptune, N.J., who has been at the forefront of saving the home, said, “The stately 1870’s Second Empire style home, where the activist newspaper editor and crusader for social justice, T. Thomas Fortune once lived, from 1901-1910, had fallen to total disrepair, vandalism and was a community eyesore.


“ ‘I’m elated with the outcome of this hearing,’ said Rogers, who as co-chair of the T. Thomas Fortune Project Committee, testified before the zoning board, schooling the members on T. Thomas Fortune’s prominence as a change-agent in the nation,” the release said.

“ ‘We never gave up. That was never an option. Fortune’s home is a National Historic Landmark that represents social progress made in this country, and now as a cultural center it will continue the work that still needs to be done,’ said Rogers.


“The group came together in 2013 with a deliberate agenda to save the home. ‘We remained steadfast in raising awareness of the importance of Fortune and his pioneering contribution to civil rights,’ said Mark Fitzsimmons, a Red Bank architect and co-chair of the committee, who also testified before the zoning board . . . .”

The T. Thomas Fortune Project Committee is planning a 4th Annual T. Thomas Fortune Birthday Celebration Luncheon on Oct. 2 at the Oyster Point Hotel on the Navesink River in Red Bank.

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