South Carolina Gamecocks’ basketball player Aliyah Boston was nominated for an ESPY in the “Best College Athlete, Women’s Sports” category after earning National Player of the Year honors and leading the Gamecocks to a national title last season. But the ESPN didn’t plan to invite Boston or televise the award. Only a social media firestorm caused ESPN, who runs the ESPYs, to change their mind. But Boston isn’t having it.
“To be nominated for an ESPY this year meant the world to me and my family,” Boston wrote on Twitter. “While it hurt finding out that they wouldn’t be televising the category despite it being televised last year, and had no intentions for me to attend, it hurt more to see ESPN change course and invite me only after social media caught wind of it. Respectfully, I declined.”
I thank God for continuing to bless me, for guiding my steps, and for the love and support of my family, fans and community. I would like to say congratulations @78jocelyn_alo and all the ESPY winners🎉 I remain thankful in all things. pic.twitter.com/BkO2iPA8YS
— Aliyah A. Boston (@aa_boston) July 20, 2022
ESPN initially said that seating was limited due to the venue size and COVID restrictions so the priority was on invitations to athletes nominated for awards in categories that would be presented on the broadcast. The ESPYs are being held at The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, which has a capacity of 3,400.
“I’m used to this,” Boston wrote. “It’s just another moment when the disrespect and erasure of Black women is brushed off as a ‘mistake’ or an ‘oversight.’ Another excuse for why our milestones and accomplishments aren’t a ‘priority’ this time, even now, 50 years after Title IX.
“To every Black girl and every Black woman: no one can take away what God has in store for us. You matter. You are valuable. You are a priority. You are seen, and you are loved — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
On one hand you can see how ESPN would plan the broadcast around specific awards, the Academy Awards and Grammy Awards have been doing this for years.
However, this is exactly what Boston is talking about. The best college athlete award should be a part of the broadcast. ESPN televises women’s college basketball, including the national championship game that Boston helped the Gamecocks win last season.
If ESPN is going to air women’s sports and talk about doing better by women athletes, then they need to back up their talk with action.
Boston’s coach, the legendary Dawn Staley a trailblazer in women’s sports, also criticized ESPN and stood up for her player.
“Like really….who in the room from @espn @ESPYS decided it was a great idea not to invite @MarchMadnessWBB NPOY DPOY….not one person was able to see the uproar this would cause? There’s definitely something wrong with the make up of the room……the fight continue….#WBBSTANDUP”
Like really….who in the room from @espn @ESPYS decided it was a great idea not to invite @MarchMadnessWBB NPOY DPOY….not one person was able to see the uproar this would cause? There’s definitely something wrong with the make up of the room……the fight continue….#WBBSTANDUP
— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) July 17, 2022
Women’s sports won’t get the respect and share of the spotlight they should, so long as issues like this continue. That it took social media backlash to cause ESPN to reverse course highlights which groups are not in the room when important decisions like this are being made.
If he worldwide leader in sports won’t set the right example, what chance is there that other platforms will?