It’s not always fashionable for athletes to make political statements. They expose themselves to criticism — much of it shrill and strident — as some pro football players might acknowledge.
However, the ESPYs — the awards provided by ESPN, the nation’s premier sports and entertainment network — hit it out of the park Wednesday night during its annual award ceremony.
Why? The ESPYs spoke to the politics of the moment. The statements were profound and powerful.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award went to 141 young women who had the courage to stand up to Michigan State University and to a physician who abused them sexually. You’ve heard of the former MD, Larry Nasar , who’s now spending the rest of his life in prison for what he did to those athletes.
All the women stood on the stage, covering it in the courage exemplified by the man whose memory is honored. Tennis great Arthur Ashe died 30 years ago of complications from HIV/AIDS, but exhibited tremendous courage before he passed.
The women stood tall they stood strong. They are the faces and the voices of the “Me Too” movement. They so richly deserve this honor.
Then we have the Coach of the Year honor. Who got that one? It went to three high school coaches, and not necessarily for the leadership they showed on the field of competition — but the selfless courage they demonstrated this past Feb. 14 when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
The coaches all died protecting their students. They threw themselves into harm’s way to save the lives of the youngsters they promised to keep safe.
Chris Hixon, Aaron Fies and Scott Biegel paid the ultimate price on behalf of their students. Their names are now memorialized forever to remember the heroism they exhibited during a terrible spasm of gun violence.
It’s not all that often when you have the perfect juxtaposition of politics and sports. We saw it Wednesday night at an annual award ceremony.
Well done, ESPN.