The fourth Annual ESPN Sports Humanitarian Awards on Tuesday celebrated the positive impact sports stars have rather than just their achievements on the field, court or ice.
In a year that the #MeToo movement and female empowerment has dominated headlines, the Sports Humanitarian Awards– held at LA LIVE’s The Novo in downtown Los Angeles — honored the likes of Laila Ali, Stephanie McMahon, Charlotte Flair and the U.S. women’s ice hockey team.
“A lot of it is about raising money for the V Foundation and celebrating people who have made an impact in their own areas so it makes sense that the Humanitarian Awards has its own night,” host Hannah Storm told TheWrap before the show. “It says that we value people who make a difference — that’s the kind of thing you might give a single award out during the ESPYS or might be overshadowed by sporting achievements.”
NBA legend David Robinson wob the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award and said it was important to him because of what the late “SportsCenter” host represented as a family man. “You really find out what people are made of when they face a time like Stuart did with his cancer and knowing that his days were numbered … we saw that he was still thinking about others,” the 10-time NBA All-Star told TheWrap. “For me to represent a person like that — I want to uphold that responsibility. Stuart shaped a lot of what we think of ESPN.”
Robinson was honored for his work helping to create equal access to education for all students in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. His Carver Academy started out as a school for 120 elementary students and has grown into a publicly funded charter school with more than 1,100 mostly low-income Hispanic and African American students.
“The greatest resource our country has is our youth, and we’re not doing the best we can for our youth,” he said. As for his road from the NBA to philanthropy, he said, “I have to give the credit to my mom, she always told me ‘you’ve got to use this platform to do something great.’ In a lot of neighborhoods it is not cool to be smart, but we made it cool to be smart and go to college.”
WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon, who accepted WWE the League Humanitarian Leadership Award for her organization, explained why the company takes community efforts as seriously as the action in the ring.
“In WWE, our mission is to put smiles on people’s faces, whether we do that with our entertainment content or we do it by giving back to the community,” McMahon said. “We had an event at Wrestlemania this year where we had pediatric patients come out as their WWE Superstar personas, because that is going to help them fight. We made music and entrances as they came into the ring, our fans cheered them on and that is exactly what WWE is all about.
“I certainly hope that WWE’s impact is growing in terms of how we give back to the community. That’s what life is all about, giving back — so it’s a privilege,” she added.
“What this award is about is giving back, the charitable acts we do when no one is watching,” WWE Superstar Roman Reigns told reporters after the company was honored.
“What is the positive message that you bring? We have a lot of resources and a giant platform and we want to use that. I can honestly say that it makes me a better man — growing up I wanted to be a superstar of some sort and wanted to be a role model,” Reigns said. “If you can help a young kid stay on the right path, that’s the important thing, if we all look at the world in the same way that’ll be a good thing.
“This equality movement is a huge part of what we’re doing is well — not just in sport but in life,” he added.
After the U.S. women’s hockey team won Team of the Year, Kendall Coyne said: “This award embodies everything we believe in, we’re big advocates of leaving the sport better than we got to it … we’re here for a bigger reason than just hockey.”
Highlights of the evening will be showcased during a one-hour program on ESPN, July 24, at 7 p.m. ET.
See the complete list of winners below:
Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award:
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (2018)
Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames (2017)
Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award:
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (2016)
Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever (2015)
Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award:
U.S. Women’s National Ice Hockey Team (2018)
San Francisco 49ers (2017)
San Francisco Giants (2016)
Chicago Bulls (2015)
Corporate Community Impact Award:
DICK’S Sporting Goods (2017)
Bank of America (2016)
League Humanitarian Leadership Award:
Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Awards
David Robinson (2018)
U.S. Department of State Global Sports Mentoring Program (2018)
Orlando City SC, #OrlandoUnited (2017)
Ross Initiative for Sports Equality (2017)
Stephanie McMahon, WWE (2017)
Billie Jean King (2016)
Robert Kraft, New England Patriots Owner (2016)
The 2015 University of Missouri Football Team (2016)
Always “Like A Girl” Campaign (2015)
Pete Carroll, NFL Coach (2015)
MLB Commissioner Emeritus Bud and Sue Selig (2015)
You Can Play Project (2015)