By Associated Press Sports Editors
Sally Jenkins was taken aback when she received the phone call, and not just because she learned she is the 2021 Red Smith Award winner.
Jenkins doesn’t get many calls on her landline these days.
“Wow,” said Jenkins, an award-winning columnist for The Washington Post. “I’m really honored. You never figure on stuff like this.”
The prestigious award is voted on annually by the Associated Press Sports Editors and presented to a person who has made “major contributions to sports journalism.”
Jenkins, a graduate of Stanford University, has been one of the best and most widely read sports columnists in the country, consistently bringing her opinions on controversial topics. Her columns have been a staple in the Post for more than 20 years.
She is the daughter of 2013 Red Smith Award winner Dan Jenkins, and it wasn’t lost on her that she learned she will share this award with him the day before the two-year anniversary of his death.
“I wish he’d been around to see this,” said Jenkins, who presented her father during his awards ceremony in 2013.
Jenkins joined the Post in 1983 and covered college sports, leaving in 1990 to work at Sports Illustrated. When she returned to the Post as a columnist in 2000, she established herself as a major voice in national sports.
Jenkins became the first woman to be inducted in the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame when she was selected in 2005, the same year her father was inducted.
She was named the nation’s top sports columnist in APSE’s annual contest in 2001, 2003, 2010 and 2011. In 2013, she won a first-place award from the Associated Press for an investigative series co-written with Rick Maese on medical care in the NFL, titled “Do No Harm.”
The Society of Professional Journalists has honored her as columnist of the year four times (2001, 2008, 2011, 2018).
A Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary in 2020, Jenkins is the author of 12 books. Four were New York Times bestsellers, most recently the No. 1 “Sum It Up” with legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt. Jenkins also is the author of “The Real All Americans,” the historical account of how the Carlisle Indian School took on the Ivy League powers in college football at the turn of the century and won.
Besides the Post and Sports Illustrated, her work has been featured in Smithsonian and GQ.
Jenkins will be honored at the APSE Summer Convention in Las Vegas in August along with her former Post colleague Christine Brennan of USA TODAY, the 2020 Red Smith winner.
“I’m blown away,” Jenkins said. “I’m delighted to share this award with my dad and with Christine.”
Jenkins thanked her editors at the Post, Matt Vita and Matt Rennie. She also credited former Post sports editor George Solomon for hiring her and Brennan.
“George Solomon was the pathfinder in not only hiring women, but hiring multiple women for major beats,” Jenkins said.
Solomon said: “At the Post, we believed our newspaper should exemplify the community. I don’t think anybody in the country is more deserving than Sally. Her writing is always spot on and provocative. I’m thrilled for her.”
Jenkins received 141 points, based on a 5-3-1 system for first-, second- and third-place votes. Leon Carter was second with 123 points and Tom Boswell was third with 67. Jenkins received 16 first-place votes to 18 for Carter, but she also had 16 second-place votes and 13 for third from 73 APSE voters.
Voting was open to Red Smith Award winners, APSE past presidents, APSE national officers, 10-year APSE members and alumni members who belonged to APSE for at least 15 years.
The five people in the voting after Jenkins are automatically nominated for next year’s award. They are: Carter, Boswell, Bill Plaschke, Bill Lyon and Mark Whicker.
Other 2021 nominees were Kirk Bohls, Bryan Burwell, Tom Callahan, Dan Shaughnessy, Tony Kornheiser, Terry Pluto and Loren Tate. To be on the 2022 ballot, they will have to be re-nominated.