Memphian to Meet: Rick Trotter

Posted on September 30, 2014


Article and Photography by Kendra Lyons

Rick Trotter knew he had a voice that needed to be heard when he moved to Memphis in 2005 to accept a job with Worship Ministry. His goal was to bridge the gaps in Memphis- age, gender, socioeconomic, and racial gaps- but he never would have guessed that almost ten years later, he would be a pastor at Downtown Church, and that his voice would be noticed by another, slightly different “Forum,” the Memphis Grizzlies.

Throughout his work with Worship Ministry, Trotter explains, “You had to learn the history of the city in order to understand why things are the way they are, to understand why cultural divides are so strong, to understand what got us to that point.” This process led Trotter to appreciate and encourage community and unity among Memphians right off the bat after moving here.

He adds with a smile, “There’s an undertone of a neighborly attitude or a care for others; a desire to work hard and do well, a desire to do something that you’re proud of.”

“What I found is, we all desire a lot of the same things. There are some preconceived notions and things that we’ve refused to address that keep us separated. If we could get beyond those things, we would see that we want to live in harmony and enjoy the city together. That’s not to be naive about pain and hatred that is just deep-seeded in some folks, but those people are the exception and not the rule with most people in Memphis.”

After living and working in Memphis for a year, Trotter decided to audition to sing the National Anthem for the Grizzlies. In the offseason, while looking for another opportunity to try out for the Anthem, Trotter stumbled upon an ad for an opening for a new PA announcer.

“Those opportunities don’t come around a lot. I don’t know many NBA teams that would hold open auditions like that. I figured I would just go and they would say ‘no’ and then I would move on with my life,” he laughs and adds, “but at least I tried.”

Lo and behold, in the middle of a bible class he was taking at the time, Trotter got the call from the Grizzlies that he was chosen to be their new PA announcer. The novelty still hasn’t worn off: “Every time I walk into FedEx Forum to work, I’m just pinching myself. I can’t believe I get to do this.”

Trotter finds that his work with the church and with the Grizzlies have parallels that he didn’t expect to see. One of his favorite parts of his job as a pastor is solidifying hope in his congregation and in turn, in himself. He finds the connection between spirituality and basketball at hope:

“The Grizzlies have become a source of hope to folks who have been working hard at their job, their families, their neighborhoods and communities, and they hear negativity that goes around, and at least for a couple of hours we will be in this arena and those things just kind of fade to the background for a moment. There are still things we have to deal with once that final buzzer sounds, but at least for those hours, but at least for a moment, we are unified and engaged in something that’s bigger than ourselves, something we all can feel proud about.”

One of Trotter’s greatest goals in life is to connect with his community and to make more than just an impression, but a meaningful and positive impact on Memphis. Trotter tells a story about him shopping at Kroger one night, and a worker there recognized him and was surprised that he shopped there and was out just like any other ordinary Memphian would be. Trotter says of Grizzlies fans, “I’m one of them, I just happened to be the one with the microphone.”

Trotter experienced pride, hope, and community integration collide two seasons ago when the Grizzlies beat the Clippers in the playoffs:

“It was one of the most Memphis moments I’ve experienced. You had the crowd chanting, ‘Whoop That Trick’ was playing, Al Kapone was there leading the chant as Zach Randolph left the game, and he’s cheering even though he just got thrown out of the game. It wasn’t the most kosher moment but it felt okay because it’s Memphis.” Trotter smiles and concludes, “We’re a little rugged, a little gritty, but that’s us.”

Stay connected with Rick Trotter via Twitter and Instagram @ricktrotter