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Minnesota Sports Stars Page, Oliva and Scurry Headline NABJ Sports Task Force Pioneer Awards

Tuesday, July 21, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Aprill Turner
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Ron Thomas 510-913-0775                                               

MINNEAPOLIS – When Minnesota sports fans list the best athletes they have been fortunate to applaud as their own, Alan Page, Tony Oliva and Briana Scurry surely come to mind. That’s why the Sports Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists is thrilled to announce that they are among six celebrated sports figures who will receive prestigious Sam Lacy Pioneer Awards on August 7.

Page was an exceptional defensive tackle with the Minnesota Vikings before becoming a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice. Oliva was one of the most dangerous hitters in Minnesota Twins history. Scurry started playing soccer as a child in Minnesota, then blossomed into an impregnable goalkeeper who helped her team win a World Cup and two Olympic golds.

They will be joined by two former University of Minnesota stars, boxer/football player Bill McMoore and basketball player Linda Roberts, along with Minneapolis Star-Tribune sports reporter LaVelle Neal as honorees at the awards ceremony from 6:30-8 p.m. inside Salon ABC at the Hilton Minneapolis. The Pioneer Awards are a major event during the NABJ Convention that will be held from Aug. 5-9 in Minneapolis.

For the sixth consecutive year, Major League Baseball is the major sponsor of the Pioneer Awards, which are named for Sam Lacy, a pioneering sports reporter at black newspapers who strongly pushed for racial integration in sports. MLB has been joined by co-sponsors the NBA, the NFL, NASCAR, The Associated Press, the Minnesota Twins and Toyota. The co-hosts this year will be Ron Thomas, the director of the Morehouse College Journalism and Sports Program, and longtime Twin Cities sports journalist Ray Richardson. About 200 conventioneers are expected to attend.

The awards ceremony will be part of the NABJ Convention, which is the largest assembly of minority journalists in the world. At least 2,000 members from all aspects of journalism are expected to gather for the convention. The Sports Task Force, which has existed for 27 years, is comprised of black print, broadcast and online sports journalists nationwide. It sponsors about a half-dozen events at every convention.

The Sports Task Force convention activities will begin on Thursday morning, August 6, with its annual Mentor Breakfast sponsored by ESPN.

Here’s why this year’s Pioneers, all of whom have personal or professional ties to Minnesota, are being honored:   

Bill McMoore’s association with University of Minnesota dates back more than 60 years. The 1951 graduate was the only black student in the Education Department and on the football and boxing teams. When the latter was an NCAA sport, he ranked No. 2 among the nation’s light heavyweights. Professionally, McMoore rose from being a teacher in the Minneapolis school district to becoming its director of physical education and athletics, then he became the Minnesota Timberwolves’ director of community relations

The Sports Task Force has chosen LaVelle Neal III as our Journalist of the Year because of his numerous achievements as a rare black baseball beat reporter. He has covered MLB for 21 years, 18 as the Twins beat reporter, and in 2013 he became the first African-American to be elected president of the prestigious Baseball Writers Association of America.

Alan Page was a member of arguably the most storied defensive line of all time – the Vikings’ Purple People Eaters that included Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen. Page played the first 11 of his 15 seasons with Minnesota, and is credited with 173 sacks, 28 blocked kicks, six First Team All-Pro selections and was voted the 1971 MVP. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.

After football, Page became an attorney and will retire in August after 22 years as a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice. His Page Education Foundation has awarded over 9,000 scholarships worth $12 million to more than 6,000 children in Minnesota. He will receive his Pioneer Award on his 70th birthday.

Tony Oliva led the American League in hitting during his first two full seasons, batting .323 and .321 in 1964 and ’65, and there wasn’t much drop-off after that. From 1962-76, the native of Cuba batted .304 with 220 home runs, 947 RBIs and finished in the top three in MVP voting three times. The Twins retired his No. 6 in 1991 and erected a statue of him outside Target Field in 2011.

Linda Roberts, an outstanding women’s basketball player before it was an NCAA sport, has been inducted into the Minnesota high school Hall of Fame, is the only female athlete among the St. Paul Hall of Champions, still holds the University of Minnesota career rebounding record 34 years after her last game, and is one of only four female UM basketball players whose jersey hangs in Williams Arena.

The most well known and most successful black American soccer player in history, Briana Scurry has been named to the U.S. Soccer All-Time Best XI National Team. Her goalkeeping helped carry the U.S. women’s team to the famous 1999 World Cup championship, which she saved with a spectacular stop of an overtime shootout kick. She also anchored two Olympic gold medal-winning teams, was one of the first openly gay LGBT athletes, and has been very outspoken about diversity and concussion awareness issues.

An advocacy group established in 1975 in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest organization for journalists of color in the nation, and provides career development as well as educational and other support to its members worldwide. For additional information, please visit,

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