By Alex Temblador
Since the beginning of this year, Caitlyn Jenner has been on a whirlwind of an adventure. She announced that she was transgender, underwent an amazing transition, and introduced the world to Caitlyn, her true identity, on the cover of Vanity Fair. We could not be any happier for her… or so we thought. Caitlyn Jenner will be receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs on July 15th, 2015, an event that could change sports forever.
Caitlyn Jenner won the gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics before transitioning from a man to a woman this year. In ESPN’s press release, they said that Jenner’s “decision to publicly come out as a transgender woman took a different kind of courage and acceptance of one’s self,” the kind of courage that reflects the focus of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is in memory of Arthur Ashe, one of the best tennis players in U.S. history. He played during the 1960’s and 1970’s, won three Grand Slam titles, and was the first African American to win a Grand Slam title. Not only was he successful on the court, but he also advocated for human rights by speaking out against the apartheid in South Africa and showed immense courage in his battle with AIDS.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award honors athletes like Ashe, who possess “strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.” So it is no surprise why Jenner is receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, because as we’ve seen in the past few months, she is standing strong in the face of adversity and standing up for her beliefs and identity regardless of the cost.
In 2014, Michael Sam, the first openly gay man to be drafted by the NFL, was awarded the Arthur Ashe Award. So Jenner receiving this award this year is important for many reasons. First, it recognizes that there are a significant amount of LGBT persons in sports who have accomplished or who are accomplishing amazing athletic feats and are showing courage off the courts or fields of their respective sports.
Secondly, by recognizing two athletes from the LGBT community, it appears that ESPN wants to create a positive dialogue in the sports community. Furthermore, awarding LGBT athletes with prestigious awards could be the catalyst to seeing more current LGBT athletes sharing their stories to sports communities with a history of LGBT discrimination and homophobia. The effects of that would be momentous and could change sports forever, making it an all-inclusive and welcoming community to all current and future athletes.
I believe that by honoring Jenner with this award, ESPN wishes to recognize the bravery of athletes like Jenner. It takes more courage and strength to do what she has done in the last six months, than it did for her to win the Olympics. However, I think ESPN’s long-term goal is to show young boys and girls who are interested in sports that regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, it does not determine one’s success in this world.