The ESPY Awards bring together the entire sporting community in one night of highlighting the best achievements across the profession in the United States. The awards began in 1993 and have been broadcast by ESPN and ABC since their inception. There are over 50 prizes presented in the ceremony, rewarding the excellence of men and women across their respective sports.
The style of the award ceremony matches that of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in the United Kingdom. However, there are significant differences between the scale of the ceremonies. The BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony presents only nine awards across all sports, with the majority of the evening focused on the signature BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award. It rewards both excellence in their respective discipline, but also the impact the person has on their sport and their community as a whole.
Unlike at the ESPYs, both men and women are eligible to win the prize, signifying the equality between the two sexes in the eyes of the judges and the British public, who play the deciding role in the outcome of the award. There have been few complaints in recent times over who has claimed the prize, while no bias has been shown towards sex or even the most popular sports.
Football is the most popular sport in the UK, but only two footballers have won the award since 2000 – David Beckham in 2001 and Ryan Giggs in 2009. Both were household names, but deserved the recognition for their excellence at Manchester United and their impact on the game.
Formula One ranks several tiers behind football in terms of its place in the hierarchy of British sport, but Lewis Hamilton is the leading contender in the BBC SPOTY odds to claim the prize this term. The respect for his achievement in winning his seventh Drivers’ Championship should allow the 35-year-old to win the award for a second time. However, there are other strong challengers, including champion jockey Hollie Doyle.
She has enjoyed an outstanding campaign, breaking her own record for wins achieved in a season by a female jockey. Doyle also broke boundaries for women in horse racing by becoming the first to ride five winners on a single card at Windsor. Whether it is enough for the 24-year-old to become the first winner of the SPOTY award from the field of horse racing since AP McCoy in 2010, and second overall remains to be seen.
However, at least there is an award available in the UK that judges men and women on equal sporting merit for excellence. The ESPYs have divided the two genders for too long with separate awards for men and women, especially when they have been quality performances that will have ensured that there has been a fair representation from both sexes.
Gymnast Simone Biles, who claimed the best Female Athlete prize in 2017, would no doubt have beaten out Russell Westbrook after winning four golds at the 2016 Olympics compared to his MVP season in the NBA.
Alex Morgan was one of the stars of the United States Women’s National Team that triumphed in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, scoring six goals in the process. She was rightfully awarded the Female Athlete of the Year in 2019 for her exploits. Morgan’s accomplishments would have seen her gain the prize ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won the award for best Male Athlete, after his MVP term in the NBA although the Milwaukee Bucks did not win the title.
There are enough examples in recent years to warrant a decision. It’s time the ESPYs joined the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in recognising equality.