The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism hosted the Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Awards Luncheon at the University of Maryland on April 2. At the luncheon, four awards were given to current and upcoming journalists.


The Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award was given to the guest of honor, CBS anchor James Brown. (Photo/

The first award was the All-Star Student Award, which had two recipients, Aaron Kasinitz and Rhiannon Walker. Kasinitz worked for the The Diamondback, the College Park campus newspaper. During his senior year, Kasinitz was the sports editor, men’s basketball beat writer, and covered the Maryland Terrapin football team. Kasinitz also interned at the Oregonian and the Baltimore Sun. Kasinitz is a man of few words, and kept his acceptance speech short, thanking his parents who taught him “to not give long speeches.”

Rhiannon Walker has had a plethora of internships during her stint at UMD’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism. Walker worked with WUSA, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, USA Today Sports, The Oklahoman and the Baltimore Sun. Walker was also a part of the Maryland Association of Black Journalists and Maryland’s student chapter of the Association for Women in Sports Media.

“I don’t think it’s another school in the country that has a program like this,” University of Maryland President Dr. Wallace Loh said proudly about the two graduating students.

The Rising Star Award, created in 2015 to honor a young alum who is progressing and succeeding in the sports journalism world, was awarded to Robert Klemko. He graduated form the Merrill College in 2010. During college Klemko covered local sports for the Prince George’s County Gazette. He started at USA Today in 2009 as a reporter and digital editor, being hired full time upon graduation.

Since then, Klemko has covered major sporting events, including the Super Bowl and the United States women’s soccer team 2012 London Olympic Games gold medal run. Through his hard work and dedication, Klemko was hired as a reporter for the Sports Illustrated site ‘Monday Morning Quarterback.’

“Even as a young student trying to figure out the whole journalism thing, Robert showed the confidence, curiosity, and “it factor” that made me think he would do well in our business,” Merrill College Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Rafeal Lorente said.

The final award, the Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award, was given to the guest of honor, CBS anchor James Brown. This award is given to a sports journalist who has made significant contributions to racial and gender equality. Brown’s winning contribution was his public stance on domestic abuse.

Brown is three-time Emmy award winner, host of ‘The NFL Today’ and ‘Thursday Night Football’ on CBS. He is also a special correspondent for CBS News. He was introduced by former Washington Redskins player and his friend, Darryl Green.

Brown walked to the stage amidst a standing ovation. “I’m proud and humbled to receive an award that honors the memory of two distinguished journalists such as Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith. Both men worked long and hard for justice and equality in sports – their efforts resulting in their changing the very culture of this country,” Brown said.