When ESPN announced that it was awarding the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlyn Jenner at this year’s ESPY’s, it stirred up quite the controversy. While many agreed Jenner was deserving of the award, there was a whole other camp who believed there were more deserving candidates and that ESPN was just doing this as a ratings ploy.
SI.com’s Richard Deitsch recently interviewed co-executive producers Maura Mandt and Connor Schell regarding that decision. Mandt and Schell also clarified on the process that goes in to selecting the recipient.
The definition of the award as it appears on ESPN.com is: Recipients reflect the spirit of Arthur Ashe, possessing 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.
Of their selecting Jenner, Mandt explains it:
“I think Caitlyn’s decision to publicly come out as a transgender woman and live as Caitlyn Jenner displayed enormous courage and self-acceptance. Bruce Jenner could have easily gone off into the sunset as this American hero and never have dealt with this publicly. Doing so took enormous courage. He was one of the greatest athletes of our time. That is what the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is about, somebody from the athletic community who has done something that transcends sport. One of the biggest platforms the Arthur Ashe Foundation has is educational, and I think in this choice we have the opportunity to educate people about this issue and hopefully change and possibly save some lives. I think that is why it was the right choice.”
It’s unfortunate that the process behind this decision needed clarification and that some thought Jenner was getting the award for the wrong reasons.
Mandt said that the process for vetting the Ashe winner includes meeting with the potential recipient and those close to him or her, as well as consulting with people within the community of the winner, and people from the Ashe Foundation.
“There are no finalists or people that vote on it. That has never been the case.” Mandt said. “That was something that was completely not true, which I know was out in the media.”
Jenner will be presented with the award on Wednesday at 8 p.m.