Columnist and Editor-at-Large, The Undefeated
Award-winning sports columnist William C. “Bill” Rhoden is a columnist and editor-at-large with The Undefeated, ESPN’s multiplatform content initiative covering the intersection of sports, race and culture.
Rhoden joined The Undefeated in October 2016, after 34 years with The New York Times, 26 of them as the Sports of The Times columnist. In collaboration with The Undefeated, ESPN, and the Walt Disney Company, Rhoden established the Rhoden Fellowship. This one-year program identifies and trains aspiring African-American journalists from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The first class of the program debuted in March 2017.
At The Undefeated, Rhoden has written his “Locker Room Talk” column since 2016 in addition to multimedia storytelling content created by the platform.
Rhoden is considered one of the most respected journalists of his generation. His sports journalism career spans nearly five decades, and his work has garnered critical acclaim. His voice as a social commentator has been among the most sought-after in sports and race, including on ESPN, where he contributed to The Sports Reporters Sunday morning discussion program from 1989 through the cessation of the program in 2017.
In July 2016, The New York Times published the last “Sports of the Times” column by Rhoden, ending his 26-year run as a recurring columnist at one of the nation’s leading newspaper sports departments and the nation’s top African American sports columnists.
Rhoden joined The New York Times in 1982 as an editor in the Week-In-Review section. A year later, he joined the sports department reporting on high school and college sports. In 1990, Rhoden wrote a three-part, front-page series called “The Student-Athlete on Campus,” exploring the complex relationship between college sports and its athletes.
Rhoden earned a degree in English from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., where he played football, wrote for the student newspaper, and worked in the sports information department. Upon graduation, he began his journalism career at The Baltimore Afro-American, covering city hall and the education board in Baltimore. He wrote about sports under his mentor Sam Lacy, a pioneer African American sports journalist and member of the writers and broadcasters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rhoden spent four years as an associate editor at Ebony magazine before joining The Baltimore Sun in 1978 as a feature writer and jazz music critic.
An accomplished author, Rhoden wrote two critically acclaimed books: Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Black Athlete, and Third and A Mile: The Trials and Triumphs of The Black Quarterback. His work was anthologized in The Best American Sports Writing series.
Rhoden won a Peabody Award for Broadcasting in 1996 as a writer for the HBO documentary Journey of the African American Athlete. He was also a writer on the 2008 documentary Breaking The Huddle: The Integration of College Football, which won an Emmy in 2009.
The veteran journalist has received numerous career honors. In 2018, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) inducted Rhoden into its Hall of Fame for contributions to both the profession and the Black community. He was honored with the 2017 Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism for contributions to racial and gender equality in sports. Additionally, the National Sports Media Association announced Rhoden’s election into its Hall of Fame in January 2021.
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