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2022 ESPYS tribute to women in sports leaves fans DIVIDED amid invite controversy

'Another excuse why our milestones and accomplishments aren’t a 'priority’ this time, even now, 50 years after Title IX', said Aliyah Boston
UPDATED JUL 21, 2022
2022 ESPYS Awards held on Wednesday night, July 20 at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre opened with an exceptional tribute to 50 years of Title IX (@TonyDasco/Twitter)
2022 ESPYS Awards held on Wednesday night, July 20 at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre opened with an exceptional tribute to 50 years of Title IX (@TonyDasco/Twitter)

The 2022 ESPYS Awards brought all the biggest sports stars under one roof. Super Bowl champions, Olympic gold medalists, NBA champions, collegiate stars, and others gathered on Wednesday night, July 20 at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre for a sports celebration filled with laughter, spectacle, and even a Stephen Curry musical number. Stephen Curry opened the 2022 ESPYS Awards with a shot at LeBron James, who co-hosted the 2007 ESPYS Awards with comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

"I am the second NBA player to host this award show, which is kind of crazy to think about. LeBron hosted this award show back in 2007 after losing in the NBA Finals," Curry joked in his opening monologue. "So yes, you guessed it. This feels better." After the Arthur Ashe Courage Award was presented to Vitali Klitschko, the former boxing champion, Curry took the stage in Brittney Griner's Phoenix Mercury jersey, ESPN reported. Griner has been detained in Russia since February after Russian authorities claimed that cannabis oil was found in her luggage.


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TITLE IX - A tribute to women in sports

This year's show also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Title IX, and the ceremony commemorated the passage of the landmark law. Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in any education program or activity that receives federal funds, allowed more women into universities and expanded sports participation. Mickey Guyton sang an empowering tribute to women in sports and the strides they’ve made – and the ground left to cover – at the 2022 ESPY Awards. Guyton’s performance of her 2020 track “What Are You Going to Tell Her?” was preceded by tennis player Billie Jean King, who questioned the audience, “How do you measure 50 years? In the wins? In the number of obstacles you’ve overcome? The distance still to go?” Title XI “changed the game, but it’s just a start,” King said.


Amid the rendition of the gender-discrimination-focused track more female athletes stepped in including Lisa Leslie, Brandi Chastain, and Carolyn Peck to deliver their thoughts. Later, Jocelyn Alo, Layshia Clarendon, Chloe Kim, Oksana Masters, Allyson Felix, and Aly Raisman also referred to the journey women still needed to make in sports. Yet ESPN also decided that this time it would not showcase the best female college athlete category during the main telecast on the awards night. A category that owes its existence to Title IX.


ESPYS Aliyah Boston snub

ESPN and ESPYS faced huge backlash after the show highlighted the agendas of women's rights and equality including equal pay and pregnancy even though most of the women athletes were not invited to the award show. Several of the women's sports stars nominated for ESPYS were not invited to the actual awards ceremony. Many of the National Women's Soccer League players and nominees were not invited to the event. Apart from NWSL players, South Carolina superstar Aliyah Boston — who was nominated for the "Best College Athlete" ESPY after leading the Gamecocks to a national championship and collecting nearly every individual accolade in the sport — was also not offered a seat at the show. Boston declined the invite after ESPN tried to do damage control and her reasoning was:  “I’m used to this. It’s just another moment when the disrespect and erasure of Black women is brushed off as a 'mistake’ or an 'oversight,' ” Boston said in a statement. “Another excuse why our milestones and accomplishments aren’t a 'priority’ this time, even now, 50 years after Title IX.”

Before the event, a representative for ESPN told Insider that "both COVID restrictions and a new venue with much less seating capacity than previous shows" forced the company to "prioritize athlete invitations to focus on specific awards that will be handed out during the broadcast." However, this may not have been the case. 

ESPN's hypocrisy

After the event ended, many users on Twitter slammed the hypocrisy of ESPN with one user tweeting, "So let me get this straight. The same company promoting equal rights and equal pay for women in sports, can’t invite those same women, those eligible to win an ESPY, to the ESPY’S. F**k you @espn @Disney #ESPYS."


While another wrote, "This year’s #ESPYS is terrible. Just filled with awkward and weird monologues about how Title IX was such a great law, but millionaire women in sports are still treated terribly."


"You are talking out of both sides of your mouth @espn. You think so highly of women in sports you can’t even bother to invite all of the women nominees to the ESPYS. Shame on you. You say COVID and space are to blame, but plenty of room for you buddies I bet," another user wrote.




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While there were some who acknowledged ESPN for the tribute they gave to women athletes. A user wrote, "It's inspiring to see women play a prominent role in tonight's NBA draft! Salute ESPN and NBA! #thebestsportsleague."


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