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Povich Center Names Jim Trotter Winner of Lacy-Smith Award

Trotter was recognized March 8 during a lunch with students.
Jim Trotter was recognized March 8 during a lunch with students.

COLLEGE PARK — Jim Trotter, a national columnist for The Athletic, has been named the winner of the 2023 Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award.

Trotter, who is based in San Diego, was selected by a committee appointed by the The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Those members, who also serve on the Povich Center Advisory Board, are committee chair Roxanna Scott and Robert KlemkoMonica McNutt and David Steele.

Jim Trotter

“The selection committee is honored to present the Lacy-Smith Award to Jim Trotter, whom we believe embodies everything this award represents,” said Scott, executive editor and vice president for USA Today Sports. “Jim’s efforts to hold the NFL accountable for its newsroom hiring practices around diversity have been well-documented. We believe his commitment to racial equality in sports has been unwavering, heroic and courageous. We are grateful to Jim for using his significant platform to ask the tough questions and to provide coverage that elevates conversations around racial equality in our industry.”

Established in 2015, the Lacy-Smith Award is presented annually to a sports journalist or broadcaster who has made significant contributions to racial and gender equity in sports. Past winners are Claire Smith (2015), James Brown (2016), William Rhoden (2017), Michael Wilbon (2018), Bob Costas (2019), John Smallwood (2021) and Christine Brennan (2022).

“I am humbled and honored by this recognition,” Trotter said. “Being mentioned in the same breath as previous recipients — all of whom I consider legends — is surreal. But receiving an award named after Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith is mind-blowing. I’m truly grateful.”

Trotter, a graduate of Howard University and former president of Pro Football Writers of America, was a reporter for NFL Network from 2018-2023. In 2023, Trotter’s contract was not renewed after he repeatedly voiced concern about a lack of diversity in the NFL offices and at NFL Network. Trotter filed a lawsuit against the NFL alleging racial discrimination by the league. 

Trotter was recognized March 8 during a lunch with students in the Povich Center’s John McNamara suite in Knight Hall. 

“Jim Trotter exemplifies all that Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith stood for as sports journalists and people,” Povich Center Director Mark Hyman said. “He unfailingly has taken principled positions that bring attention to inequity in sports, and those positions sometimes have come at a personal cost. We're honored to be recognizing his contributions and pleased that he is joining Claire Smith, Bill Rhoden, Michael Wilbon, Christine Brennan and other champions as a Lacy-Smith Award winner.” 


Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith spent much of their journalism careers advocating for fairness, equality and justice in sports, including reporting, columnizing and lobbying for the integration of modern-day Major League Baseball.

Lacy worked at his craft for more than 80 years, primarily as sports editor of the Baltimore Afro-American. He was the first African American member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). Lacy died in 2003, at the age of 99. Smith covered the Negro Leagues for a number of newspapers, including the Pittsburgh Courier, The Chicago Defender and Chicago Herald-American. 

For many years, Lacy and Smith attended MLB meetings where they worked from hotel lobbies interviewing owners and writing columns about the need for integration. Lacy and Smith were each honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) for their lifelong contributions to sports journalism with the Red Smith Award — Lacy in 1998 and Smith in 2014.


The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism prepares students to be innovators and leaders in all facets of sports media. The center's unique, experiential curriculum and public programs elevate and amplify discussion of race, gender, politics and the world — just as Shirley Povich did each morning in The Washington Post.

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