The ESPY Awards is an accolade ceremony that is presented by network provider ESPN to recognize individual and team athletic achievements during a calendar year. This awards program, which dates back to the early 90s, is like the Academy Awards and Oscars for sports.
Each year, they present the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to an individual whose actions transcend the sports category, and the winner doesn’t necessarily have to be an athlete. When they say “transcends sports” they are referring to someone who has made a significant impact outside of the world of sports. Someone who has impacted the lives in their community, and even the world. Past winners include names like Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela and Jim Valvano.
Arthur Ashe, whom the award is named after, is the first African-American tennis player to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and the first African-American to be ranked No. 1 in the world. After he contracted HIV from a blood transfusion he received during heart bypass surgery, he began working to educate others about HIV and AIDS. He founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health before his death from AIDS-related pneumonia.
So color me surprised when it was announced that Caitlyn Jenner would receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPY Awards ceremony. The same Cailtin, who didn’t even exist until a few days ago. So this begs the question of how can ESPN award an ESPY to an individual who wasn’t “born” until one month before the award ceremony? How can ESPN ignore the stories of other athletes who have faced adversity or passed away from illnesses, all while impacting the world? Outside of Noah Galloway and Lauren Hill, both of whom are worthy of this award, what about Tyler Adams of Georgetown University? What about Cincinnati Bengals player Devon Still or former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates?
ESPN defends their selection by saying:
“Bruce has received many accolades over the years for being one of the greatest Olympians of our time but The ESPYS are honored to celebrate Bruce becoming Caitlyn. She has shown the courage to embrace a truth that had been hidden for years, and to embark on a journey that may not only give comfort to those facing similar circumstances, but can also help to educate people on the challenges that the transgender community faces.”
In my opinion, ESPN has jumped on the media bandwagon and decided to award this to Caitlyn simply for ratings and media exposure. It’s no coincidence that when Caitlyn receives this award, it will also be her first public appearance. Celebrating Bruce for transitioning into Caitlyn, is not reason enough to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage award. Caitlyn has done nothing new. What Caitlyn has done has already been done by countless others around the world including former athletes and celebrities like Renee Richards, Christen Jorgensen, Isis King and Laverne Cox.
I am in no way judging the decision of Bruce to transition into Caitlyn, as that is a whole other topic of conversation. But I am criticizing the decision and true values of ESPN. I once thought that awards actually stood for something, and given to someone for what they have accomplished. Now it seems we give awards to individuals who can help us further our personal agendas.
What do you think?