Former Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam will be presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at The 2014 ESPYS in Los Angeles. After a highly successful college football career, including being named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-American his senior year, Sam announced publicly that he was gay.
Currently a 2014 NFL Draft hopeful, Sam would be the first publicly gay player in the National Football League if signed by a team. Breaking stereotypes and paving the way for others following him, he will be honored for his courage and honesty that resonates beyond sports.
“The focus and bravery Michael Sam has shown in his life thus far has been nothing short of inspiring and we’re proud to honor him with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPYS,” said Maura Mandt, executive producer.
Sam’s road to success in college sports is all the more impressive given the hardships he endured while growing up in his hometown of Hitchcock, Texas. Out of his seven siblings, two have tragically died, one disappeared in 1998 and has yet to be found, and another two have been in and out of jail. Sam’s response to life’s challenges was to channel his strong self-confidence and dominate the football field in high school, which led to a scholarship offer from the University of Missouri.
“Arthur always believed in and practiced leading by example,” said Ashe’s widow Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe. “When Michael Sam announced that he is gay, he courageously stepped forward to engage an issue that still remains a pervasive problem in many professional sports. Michael has displayed true leadership both on and off the field.”
Presented annually to individuals whose contributions transcend sports, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is the emotional pinnacle of the industry-wide sports celebration, which will be televised live Wednesday, July 16, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN from Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is presented each year to individuals whose contributions transcend sports. Past honorees include: Jim Valvano (1993); Steve Palermo (1994); Howard Cosell (1995); Loretta Claiborne (1996); Muhammad Ali (1997); Dean Smith (1998); Billie Jean King (1999); Dave Sanders (2000); Olympian Cathy Freeman (2001); Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, four passengers who lost their lives September 11 on United Flight 93 (2002); Pat and Kevin Tillman (2003); Liberian-born soccer legend George Weah (2004); disabled athletes Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah and Jim MacLaren (2005); Afghan female athletes (2006); and Trevor Ringland and Dave Cullen for their work with PeacePlayers (2007); U.S. Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos (2008); former president Nelson Mandela (2009); the Thomas family of Parkersburg, IA (2010); boxer Dewey Bozella (2011); women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt (2012) and Robin Roberts (2013).