Caitlyn Jenner wins ESPN award named after Richmond tennis star
The Arthur Ashe for Courage award is given by ESPN every year to folks who the “possessing strength in the face of adversity,” and Caitlyn Jenner, who recently came out as a trans woman, has been named the 2015 winner.
Jenner, who was once called the “worlds greatest athlete,” will join the ranks of Jim Valvano – a college basketball star who won the first Arthur Ashe Award for his fight with Cancer in 1993 – and Muhammad Ali - who won in 1997 for “showing courage when others would not” – as winners of the course of the award’s 22 year history.
“In the past few months, the overwhelming outpouring of support from all over the world for my journey has been incredible,” said Jenner in an ESPN press release. “However, being honored with this award, which is named after one of my heroes, is truly special. For the first time this July, I will be able to stand as my true self in front of my peers.”
Jenner won the gold medal in the 1977 Olympic decathlon, scoring 8,616 points, a new Olympic record. This record wasn’t broken until 1991 when Dan O’Brien won the Gold. She is still No. 25 in the world all-time list and the No. 9 American for the decathlon competition.
Arthur Ashe, born in Richmond in 1943, was first Black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team and the only Black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, or the Australian Open. He is credited with breaking down racial barriers in a sport which continues to be dominated by white men. Ashe contracted HIV from a blood transfusion in the 80′s, and went on to educate people about HIV/AIDS until his death in 1993.
Ashe’s tennis legacy can be seen in Richmond’s many many tennis courts. He’s also immortalized as the only Black man on Monument avenue in a sculpture called “One of the Most Unintentionally Horrifying Statues In the World” by Mentalfloss in 2014.
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,” wrote ESPN executive producer Maura Mandt. ”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.”
Not everyone is thrilled at the idea of Jenner’s win. The long time sports announcer took to the “The Dan Patrick Show” to say he thought the choice was “exploitive.”
“I wish Caitlyn all the happiness in the world and all the peace of mind in the world. However, it strikes me that awarding the Arthur Ashe Award to Caitlyn Jenner is just a crass exploitation play — it’s a tabloid play,” Costas said on Monday. “In the broad world of sports, I’m pretty sure they could’ve found someone -– and this is not anything against Caitlyn Jenner –- who was much closer to actively involved in sports, who would’ve been deserving of what that award represents.”
The ESPY’s is an annual award show presented by ESPN which honors athletic accomplishments – this year’s presentation will air Wednesday, July 15, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC from Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE.
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