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Critics Disagree with Caitlyn Jenner Receiving Award

On Wednesday, Caitlyn Jenner received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage--one of the most prestigious awards in sports--for her athletic achievements and struggle to come out as transgender. During her speech, she said:

“It is an honor to have the word ‘courage’ associated with my life. But tonight another word comes to mind — and that is ‘fortunate.’ I owe a lot to sports. It has shown me the world; it has given me an identity. If someone wanted to bully me — well, you know what? I was the MVP of the football team. That wasn’t going to be a problem. And the same thing goes tonight. If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is I can take it.” Yet, some sports commentators questioned whether or not Jenner is the right vessel for the legacy of Arthur Ashe, the African American tennis star who died of AIDS in 1993. Other recipients of the award include Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King and Nelson Mandela. Costas said last month on “The Dan Patrick Show":

“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. 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."

In addition, Frank Deford told the Los Angeles Times:

I can understand and sympathize with the torment Bruce Jenner has endured all these years, but I don’t think it rises to the level of courage. Arthur Ashe had a great sense of humor, and he would probably be laughing at all of this, chuckling that Caitlyn Jenner would be getting this award, and that ESPN was trying to pass it off this way. Courage is usually involved with overcoming something. Caitlyn Jenner is being forthright and honest, but this is something that she wanted, and she has a good fallback position — a reality show, fame and lots of money. There’s not a great deal of risk involved in the same way that someone who worked down at the body shop would experience. Bruce Jenner had a good idea that he wasn’t going to lose by doing this; his family is in support of him."

Some felt that Lauren Hill, a 19-year-old college basketball player stricken with cancer who died in April, would have been a better candidate. Kevin Frazier of “Entertainment Tonight” said "Make no mistake, what Caitlyn did was courageous. But Lauren’s journey was not about glamour or publicity. It was just a girl who never gave up her dream of playing college basketball while she was dying of cancer, and along the way she raised millions of dollars for pediatric cancer. That is why I feel that she is deserving of the award.”

Another popular candidate was Noah Galloway, who continues to compete in adventure races and other events despite losing an arm and a leg during the Iraq War. ESPN defended their decision and made clear that there are no runner-ups for the Ashe Award. Honorees are chosen after consultations with the Ashe Foundation. ESPY co-executive producer Maura Mandt told Sports Illustrated “There are no finalists or people that vote on it. That has never been the case. That was something that was completely not true, which I know was out in the media.” There was also the rumor that Jenner was given the award as payback for her interview with Diane Sawyer--who works for ABC, the network that aired the ESPYs. ESPN writes the award honors those “whose contributions transcend sports.”

Photo: CNN

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