Bob Costas: ‘Giving Caitlyn Jenner Ashe Award Is a Crass Exploitation Play’
NBC Sportscaster Bob Costas wants everyone to know he doesn't approve of ESPN's decision to give the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlyn Jenner.
Speaking on The Dan Patrick Show he said (via the Huffington Post), "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 the award represents."
Costas continued, "That’s not to say that it doesn’t take some measure of personal courage to do what Caitlyn Jenner has done, but I think every year we look across the landscape of sports, and we find prominent people and kids in high school and amateur athletes who I think more closely fit the description of what they’re looking for or should be looking for there. And I think this is a play to pump up audience the way lots of things are put on television, to attract eyeballs, not because of the validity, but because of whatever the kind of gawker factor is."
While it's true that Jenner's sports accomplishments aren't recent, she was hailed as one of the greatest athletes in the world after winning the gold medal in the decathlon against Russia during the 1976 Summer Olympics. That's no small feat. Nearly 40 years later, Jenner made headlines again when she came out to the world as a transgender woman during an interview with Diane Sawyer.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award has no requirements as to how recent an athlete's sports accomplishments need be; past winners haven't been athletes at all. ESPN's site states, "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. The award is inspired by the life that Ashe lived, using his fame and stature to advocate for human rights, although, at the time, those positions may have been unpopular and were often controversial."
Jenner expressed her gratitude for the award in a press release, saying (via ESPN Media Zone), “In the past few months, the overwhelming outpouring of support from all over the world for my journey has been incredible. 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.”
Maura Mandt, executive producer of The ESPY Awards, explained their decision to honor Jenner, saying, "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."