Jeremy Schaap: On lessons learned from his father and cool call from Ethel Kennedy

An excerpt of my latest column for Poynter.


It isn’t every day that Jeremy Schaap gets a call from Ethel Kennedy.

Mrs. Kennedy was on the line with the good news that ESPN had won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Schaap’s “E:60” story on deplorable work conditions in Qater in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. It was the first time the network received the prestigious honor.

Kennedy’s widow was extolling the virtues of the piece during their conversation when Schaap interrupted her.

“I said, ‘Mrs. Kennedy, I’ve got to tell you something. You knew my father,’” Schaap said.

Schaap’s father, Dick, wrote a biography, “R.F.K.”, that was published just months before Sen. Kennedy’s assassination in June, 1968. Upon hearing that piece of information, Mrs. Kennedy dropped the formal tone in her voice.

“Oh, I was hoping you were Dick’s son,” Kennedy said.

“That was very cool,” Jeremy said.

This is a good stretch for the Schaap family. While Dick, who died in 2001, would have been very proud of his son for winning the RFK Award, Jeremy has reason to boast about his father. Monday, Dick Schaap will be formally inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in a ceremony in Salisbury, N.C.

The new Hall of Fame class also includes Lesley Visser, the long-time Boston Globe and CBS reporter. “To have a Schaap and Visser in the same class means they are very proud in Amsterdam,” Jeremy cracked.

The honor for Dick Schaap actually is way overdue. Arguably, there is nobody in the history of sports media who performed to such a high standard on more platforms than him.

Schaap was the editor of Sport Magazine and wrote 33 books, including Jerry Kramer’s “Instant Diary,” a ground-breaking diary of a year with the Green Bay Packers. On TV, he hosted ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters,” a forerunner for today’s modern studio shows, and reported on sports for ABC News.

“It’s easy for me to say because I’m biased,” Jeremy said. “But (New York Times sports columnist) Dave Anderson said it best. He said, ‘My father was the best of their generation at whatever he did.’”

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