Ron Thomas, a sports writer and copy editor for four decades, is the first director of Morehouse College’s Journalism and Sports Program. The culmination of his work occurred when he received the 2011 Excellence in Sports Journalism Lifetime Achievement Award from Northeastern University’s School of Journalism and Center for the Study of Sport in Society. He specifically was honored for his articles and publications about the racial dimensions of sports.
Prior to joining Morehouse, Thomas worked for 28 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. From 1979-1991, he covered the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers for the San Francisco Chronicle, and from 1982-84, he was USA Today’s first NBA reporter/editor. He wrote game stories, features and columns for the San Francisco Examiner from 2000 to 2003, mainly covering baseball’s San Francisco Giants, the Golden State Warriors, college sports and professional tennis. From 2003 to 2007, Thomas was a freelance sports writer and copy editor, contributing articles to BlackAmericaWeb.com and the NAACP’s Crisis Magazine.
Much of his impetus for becoming a sports writer stemmed from the writings of Dr. Harry Edwards and Sports Illustrated’s Jack Olsen in the 1960s, which made Thomas acutely aware of racism in sports. Much of the work he is most proud of relates to that topic, including: a 1999 column entitled “Why So Few?” about the lack of black NFL coaches that won a National Association of Black Journalists first-place award; a 1987 column about Al Campanis’ infamous “necessities” interview; a 1997 column about pro football’s Bill Romanowski-J.J. Stokes spitting incident; and a 2006 Crisis Magazine article about the lack of black female head coaches at predominantly white colleges. In 2012, Thomas’ columns appeared in The New York Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Thomas’ book, “They Cleared the Lane: the NBA’s Black Pioneers,” was published in 2002 by University of Nebraska Press. The idea for the book originated when Thomas received overwhelmingly positive reader response from a 1987 newspaper series about how the NBA became integrated in 1950.
The book is the first written about the process and turmoil that brought black players into the NBA after team owners secretly banned them from the league’s first four seasons.
Since 1987, through their firm The Sports Institute, Thomas and business partner Mike Brown have given lectures, workshops and invited conferences about racial, gender and media issues in sports. In 1996, Thomas’ chapter “Black Faces Still Rare in the Press Box” was published in the sociology textbook Sports in Society: Equal Opportunity or Business as Usual?
A native of Buffalo, New York, Thomas virtually grew up in sports stadiums by regularly attending baseball, football and basketball games with his family. He graduated from the University of Rochester in 1971 with a degree in political science and earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in 1973. A member of the National Association of Black Journalists since 1978, Thomas was an original co-chair of its Sports Task Force and co-hosts its annual ceremonies honoring retired black sports pioneers.
Now residing in Atlanta, his hobbies include playing tennis, hearing actors and directors talk about movies he seldom has time to see, and having fun with his daughter, Kali.