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Journalism Showcase: SportsCenter’s “SC Featured” Tells Story Of Righting A 60-Year-Old Wrong

Tom Ammiano believed his effeminate mannerisms led his N.J. high school to deny him the varsity letter he earned. Ammiano, now 79, is set to receive the letter

Sunday’s SportsCenter “SC Featured” segment will tell a story about righting a wrong from more than 60 years ago.

Tom Ammiano, a well-known gay leader in San Francisco, believed his effeminate mannerisms led his New Jersey high school to deny him the varsity letter he earned in track and field at the age of 16. Now at 79, Ammiano is finally set to receive the letter.

“Nowhere to Run,” reported by Sam Borden and produced by Susan Ansman for the ESPN Features Unit, will debut in the 8 a.m. ET hour of SportsCenter and re-air in subsequent editions. Borden also wrote a companion feature for ESPN.com.

The production, which included staging and shooting re-enactments of Ammiano’s time in high school and a track meet from that era, also has an in-person interview with the subject.

Ammiano was initially reluctant to be interviewed, according to Ansman.

“There was some trepidation because it was a tough moment in his life that he was discussing,” Ansman said. “But Tom is a guy who likes to discuss things on his own terms. He is very aware of how people still can react to stories like this, so I think there was this trepidation to letting people into his life more intimately.

“But the reason he eventually agreed to let us tell his story was that this would help a lot of young people today.”

Ansman said she hopes the story is impactful, especially since it is airing during Pride Month.

“There are two main things that I want people to take away from this – first being that everybody has the right to be treated the way they want to be treated,” she said.

“The second thing is that it’s never too late to right a wrong,” she said. “The school officials now obviously do not have the viewpoints that, assuming the school in 1958 had, at least the committee that was going to award Tom this letter. So they were able to see what happened and correct it, even if it was overdue.”

– Mike Skarka

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