The 2020 ESPY Awards were like no other amid the global pandemic; however, that doesn’t mean the event wasn’t impactful or meaningful. Unlike years past, the event honored athlete activism and humanitarian efforts. The show featured only awards in which inspirational moments and people were recognized, leaving on-field performances by the wayside.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, OL Reign winger Megan Rapinoe, and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird opened the virtual show with a powerful message about Black Lives Matter.
“Jackie, Bill, Ali, Serena,” Wilson said, as he approached the screen in a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. Wilson provoked the audience to think about the names of these four Black individuals who have changed the world of sports as we know it. What would athletics look like if we did not know their names? He noted, though, this was just one conversation we should have–”I can’t breathe” being another.
“Trust us, we know that sports are important,” Sue Bird said, following Wilson’s remarks. “But do Black lives matter to you when they are not throwing touchdowns? Grabbing rebounds? Serving aces?”
“If that was uncomfortable to hear, good. I used to shy away from moments like this because it’s convenient to be quiet, to be thought of as safe and polite,” she continued. “This is our moment to prove we know a better world where Black lives are valued.”
Finally Rapinoe stepped in to challenge the audience.
“For centuries there have been fights for justice and equality in this country led by Black people. This movement is no different,” she clarified. “But as white people, this is the breaking point. This time we have to have their backs.”
The hosts made it clear that a return to sports does not mean a return to normalcy–it means anything but that. It means using all platforms to promote equality, demote police brutality, and amplify the Black voices that have been silenced for hundreds of years.
Following the impactful words of Rapinoe, Bird, and Wilson, Tom Brady and Robin Roberts honored the high school and college seniors who lost their seasons due to the global pandemic.
The L.A. Dodgers were named the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year, after constructing 51 baseball and softball fields and offering reading programs and health services to thousands in underserved areas across Los Angeles.
Kim Clavel was recognized for trading in her boxing gloves to fight the pandemic as a nurse, receiving the Pat Tillman Award for Service. And the list goes on, as many athletes who used their platforms for good this past year were honored during this virtual ESPYs.
Change is happening rapidly across the United States and sports are the perfect setting to amplify the brave voices behind it. The impactful message of Rapinoe, Bird, and Wilson is sure to resonate within professional, college, high school, and youth programs, to continue making athletics and the world at large a more inclusive place.
Tom Brady and Robin Roberts honor high school and college seniors amid the pandemic
The Pat Tillman Award for Service: Kim Clavel
Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year: The LA Dodgers
The Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award presented by Malcolm Jenkins: Joel Apudo, Batouly Camara, Ally Friedman, Javonn Islar, Elijah Murphy, Chelsea Quito and Niah Woods
Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award: Nelson Cruz
The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance: Taquarius Wair
Tribute to Kobe by Snoop Dogg
The Arthur Ashe Award for Courage: Kevin Love
Corporate Community Impact Award: Burton Snowboards
Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award: The Hilinski Family
Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award: WNBA & WNBPA
Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award: Maryam Shojaei
Sports Philanthropist of the Year Award: Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
League Humanitarian of the Year Award: National Football League
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