The producer of ESPN’s ESPY awards show admits that honoring the former Bruce Jenner with the Arthur Ashe Courage in Sports Award came not through any vote but a decision she made in consultation with her staff.
During the event to be held on Wednesday evening at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, Jenner will be awarded an honor usually given to someone either in the midst of a sports career or only recently retired from one. It is an action that some are calling a sham just to get TV ratings.
NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas was one critic of the plan saying that “it strikes me that awarding the Arthur Ashe to Caitlyn Jenner is just a crass exploitation play, a tabloid play. In the broad world of sports—and this is not anything against Caitlyn Jenner—I am pretty sure they could have found someone who was much closer to actively [being] involved in sports who would have been deserving of what that award represents ESPY Awards Takes Criticism for Giving Award to ‘Caitlyn Jenner’
The producers of the show, however, defend their choice of Jenner. Show producer Maura Mandt praised Jenner for the “courage” of coming out “as a transgender woman.”
“Bruce Jenner could have easily gone off into the sunset as this American hero and never have dealt with this publicly,” Mandt said. “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.”
Mandt also admitted that there is no formal process, no voting, no list of candidates, no finalists, no runnerups or anything like that to the way the award is issued. She and her staff just decide who they want and that is that.
But Mandt and her staff flatly denied that the choice of Jenner was a move to exploit headlines and grab viewers.
In fact, Mandt seemed to think Bob Costas’ opinion was “dangerous.” In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Mandt said that “for Bob Costas who is greatly respected to make that statement with authority about this being a crass publicity play, people take that with authority, and that is dangerous.”
In the meantime, ESPN backs their producer and the show will go on.
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