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Black Journalists Will Honor McAllister, Abdul-Rauf, Richard, Harris, Pack as Pioneer Award Winners

Thursday, August 3, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kerwin Speight
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NEW ORLEANS – Eight of the greatest sports figures produced by the state of Louisiana will be honored by the Sports Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists on Friday, Aug. 11, in New Orleans. They will receive Sam Lacy Pioneer Awards during the NABJ Convention that takes place from Aug. 9-13.


Although Deuce McAllister hasn’t scored a touchdown for the Saints since 2008, he has remained in the hearts of fans as their broadcast analyst and a generous contributor to worthy causes. James Harris

contributed to the legend of Grambling football and then made history in 1969 as the first black quarterback to start in an NFL opening day game.


James Rodney (J.R.) Richard met stardom and tragedy as an intimidating strikeout master whose career with Houston ended far too early after he suffered a stroke. Chanda Rubin distinguished herself among Louisiana tennis players by reaching international recognition as the No. 6-ranked singles player and No. 9 doubles player in the world.


These stellar athletes, along with longtime NBA player Robert Pack, former LSU basketball stars Collis Temple and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (then known as Chris Jackson) and veteran sports media relations

person Arthur Triche, comprise this year’s Pioneer Award winners. The event will be held at 6 p.m. in the Saint James Room of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel, with about 150 convention goers attending. Throughout the NABJ Convention, more than 2,000 black journalists will participate in workshops, a career fair and special events.


The Pioneer Award is named after Sam Lacy, the great sports columnist who was instrumental in Jackie Robinson integrating major league baseball. Lacy spent most of his career with the Baltimore Afro-American and wrote a weekly column until he died in 2003 at 99.


The Sports Task Force, which began in 1987, is a specialized group within NABJ for print, broadcast and online sports journalists. We established the Pioneer Awards in 1989 to acknowledge black sports

figures who have been groundbreakers in or grew up in the area of the convention.


For the eighth consecutive year, Major League Baseball is the major sponsor of the Pioneer Awards. Co-sponsors are Disney Destinations, ESPN, NASCAR, the NBA, Turner Sports and USA Swimming. The co-hosts will be Ron Thomas, director of the Morehouse College Journalism and Sports Program, and Minneapolis on-air personality Ray Richardson at KMOJ-FM.


Here are this year’s Pioneer Award winners:


• Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf averaged 29 points and was first-team All- American in both of his seasons at LSU. Within three years after Denver made him the third pick in the 1990 draft, he had converted to

Islam and changed his name. Controversy hit in 1996 after he refused to stand for the national anthem because he believes the flag symbolizes racism and oppression. Despite averaging 19 points that

season, just two years later he was out of the league. He was the Colin Kaepernick of his day, and hence deserves a Pioneer Award.


• Among legendary Grambling coach Eddie Robinson’s many achievements, perhaps his greatest was grooming James “Shack” Harris to become an NFL quarterback. With Buffalo on Sept. 14, 1969, he became the first black QB to start a season-opening game. With the Rams, Harris won the 1974 Pro Bowl MVP Award, and he was Baltimore’s VP of personnel when they won Super Bowl XXXV.


• In 1997, his sixth of 13 NBA seasons, Robert Pack started a foundation to expose disadvantaged boys and girls to an array of careers. After he returned to his hometown New Orleans, rap star Master P joined him in forming TEAM H.O.P.E. (Helping Our Players Excel), an organization that has taken children on educational trips to Washington, D.C., Dallas and Selma, Alabama.


• He stands 6-foot- 8, could throw a fastball 103 mph, and joins Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan as the only modern-day pitchers to strike out 300 batters in consecutive seasons. James Rodney Richard was a

“Tower of Power” for Houston as he went 107-71 with a 3.15 ERA. A stroke in 1980 cut short his career, followed by bankruptcy and homelessness. But Richard has recovered to join us as our honoree.


• In nine seasons with the Saints, Deuce McAllister was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and became their all-time leader in rushing yards (6,096), rushing touchdowns (49) and yards per carry (4.3). Now a

Saints broadcast analyst, McAllister also is a prominent figure in New Orleans because his Catch 22 Foundation works with underprivileged youths and helped rebuild local communities after Hurricane Katrina.


• In Louisiana’s Sports Hall of Fame, there are only two tennis players, and Pioneer Chanda Rubin is one of them. The winner of the 1996 Australian Open doubles title with Arantxa Sánchez Vicario,

Rubin peaked that year by ranking in the Top 10 in singles and doubles. Injuries limited her success thereafter, but when her career ended in 2008 she had won 625 of 1,039 professional matches.


• Being LSU’s first black basketball player had considerable risks in 1971, so Louisiana Governor John McKeithen summoned the National Guard to protect Collis Temple Jr. during his first game as a Tiger. Now he’s one of 15 players on the school’s All-Century team and has left a legacy as the father of two LSU players and a former member of the board of directors of the LSU Alumni Association.


• Arthur Triche’s career in the media began when he was a paper boy in his native New Orleans. That eventually led to positions as a college assistant sports information director, NFL assistant media relations director, and finally to his dream job as the first black director of media relations in the NBA. He held that position with the Atlanta Hawks for 23 years and now is a sports talk show executive producer, surviving cancer three times along the way.



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