Caitlyn Jenner is to be honored at the 2015 ESPY Awards, receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award Wednesday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The announcement was made in June shortly after the former Olympian and "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" star appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, debuting her look as a transgender woman.
"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 last month. "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."
The award is given each year to a person who has transcended sports. College basketball coach Jim Valvano was the first recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, giving his now famous speech less than two months before his death. Michael Sam was given the honor last year after becoming the first openly gay football player to be selected in the NFL Draft.
Other past winners have included Nelson Mandela, Robin Roberts and Pat Summitt.
Almost forty years before Caitlyn Jenner’s public transformation, Bruce Jenner was considered the world’s greatest athlete, winning the gold medal in the 1976 Olympic decathlon. At 26 years old, Jenner totaled 8,616 points in the competition in 10 events, setting a world record.
ESPN’s decision to honor Jenner has not been without controversy. NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas made headlines when he told "The Dan Patrick Show" that giving Jenner the award was a "crass exploitation play," and others have criticized ESPN, claiming other candidates were more deserving.
"I think Caitlyn’s decision to publicly come out as a transgender woman and live as Caitlyn Jenner displayed enormous courage and self-acceptance," Mandt said. "Bruce Jenner could have easily gone off into the sunset as this American hero and never have dealt with this publicly. Doing so took enormous courage.
"One of the biggest platforms the Arthur Ashe Foundation has is educational, and I think in this choice we have the opportunity to educate people about this issue and hopefully change and possibly save some lives. I think that is why it was the right choice."
Much of Jenner’s family is expected to be in attendance, including Kim and Khloe Kardashian, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner. Kris Jenner won’t be at the ceremony. The couple divorced last year.