While public opinion is almost unanimously behind Caitlyn Jenner, Bob Costas isn’t thrilled with some of the support the 65-year-old former Olympic athlete is receiving. Specifically, he’s upset that she’ll be honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPYs.
According to TV Guide, the NBC sportscaster called into “The Dan Patrick Show” on Tuesday to sound off against the recent decision to give Jenner the award.
"It strikes me that awarding the Arthur Ashe Award to Caitlyn Jenner is just a crass exploitation play - it's a tabloid play," he said. "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 actively involved in sports, who would've been deserving of what the award represents."
For those who are unfamiliar, the Arthur Ashe Award is typically given to public figures whose contributions to the world transcend sports. While more often than not the award goes to an athlete of some kind, previous winners have included Nelson Mandela, Dave Sanders and Robin Roberts. The status of Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, as a Gold Medal Olympian is her door into the Arthur Ashe Award conversation.
While Costas' comments seem like an attack on Jenner herself, US Weekly notes that he specifically tried to avoid that from happening. The 63-year-old sportscaster qualified his statements before they got too controversial.
“Bruce Jenner, who I did not know well, I always had a cordial and pleasant relationship with," he said. "I wish Caitlyn Jenner well, and anyone — even if most of us do not fully understand it — anyone seeking to find the identity they're comfortable with and to live the happiest possible life without intentionally hurting anyone else ... I think we're moving toward a more tolerant society, and that's all for the good, and I wish Caitlyn all the happiness in the world and all the peace of mind in the world."
So, while he isn’t necessarily against Jenner or her transition, he said that he feels there were other candidates that more closely resembled the true spirit of the award and that, given the close proximity between Jenner’s coming out in Vanity Fair and the announcement of the award, the whole thing feels like a colossal ratings grab.
As the Washington Post points out, it’s not exactly a brave or controversial statement to say that the ESPY Awards in general are a big ratings grab. The show airs on ABC on July 15, which the outlet notes is one of the dullest days on the sports calendar. Over the years, the ESPYs have morphed into a full-fledged ceremony complete with a red carpet and expanded guest list beyond the world of sports. In other words, if you can accept the exposure that Jenner’s journey has had on society as a positive, the award is really just an extension of that positivity.
“In the past few months, the overwhelming outpouring of support from all over the world for my journey has been incredible,” Jenner said in a statement from ESPN announcing her award. “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.”