Almost 40 years ago, Bruce Jenner’s Olympic success came as a result of strengthening both his mind and body leading to his status as one of the world’s greatest athletes, but the decision to publicly come out as a transgender woman took a different kind of courage and acceptance of one’s self. To celebrate that bravery, ESPN today announced that Jenner will be presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at The 2015 ESPYS Presented by Capital One. Presented annually to individuals whose contributions transcend sports, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is the pinnacle of the sports celebration, which will be televised Wednesday, July 15, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC from Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE.
Jenner’s unyielding resolve and hard work enabled him to win a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics and break world records. He then parlayed that success into a variety of roles across different areas including television, film, auto racing and business. Although Jenner first captured the attention of the nation for his athletic prowess and determination, the same strength of character shone through this past April when he sat down with ABC’s Diane Sawyer to come out as a transgender woman.
“In the past few months, the overwhelming outpouring of support from all over the world for my journey has been incredible,” said Jenner. “However, being honored with this award, which is named after one of my heroes, is truly special. For the first time this July, I will be able to stand as my true self in front of my peers.”
Added executive producer Maura Mandt: “Bruce has received many accolades over the years for being one of the greatest Olympians of our time but The ESPYS are honored to celebrate Bruce becoming Caitlyn. She has shown the courage to embrace a truth that had been hidden for years, and to embark on a journey that may not only give comfort to those facing similar circumstances, but can also help to educate people on the challenges that the transgender community faces.”
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is presented each year to individuals whose contributions transcend sports. Past honorees include: Jim Valvano (1993); Steve Palermo (1994); Howard Cosell (1995); Loretta Claiborne (1996); Muhammad Ali (1997); Dean Smith (1998); Billie Jean King (1999); Dave Sanders (2000); Olympian Cathy Freeman (2001); Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, four passengers who lost their lives September 11 on United Flight 93 (2002); Pat and Kevin Tillman (2003); Liberian-born soccer legend George Weah (2004); disabled athletes Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah and Jim MacLaren (2005); Afghan female athletes (2006); and Trevor Ringland and Dave Cullen for their work with PeacePlayers (2007); U.S. Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos (2008); former president Nelson Mandela (2009); the Thomas family of Parkersburg, IA (2010); boxer Dewey Bozella (2011); women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt (2012); Robin Roberts (2013) and Michael Sam (2014).