Bob Costas certainly isn’t afraid to speak his mind or tackle controversy head-on, and he has a likely contrarian take about this year’s recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award from ESPN. The NBC Sports stalwart was on The Dan Patrick Show this week stumping for his new book when the topic turned to the annual honor presented at the ESPYs to an individual “possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.” This year it’s Caitlyn Jenner, who won the 1976 Olympic decathlon as Bruce Jenner. Costas — who ruffled so many feathers with an on-air rant about gun control in 2012 — seemed to take issue not with Jenner’s widely publicized transition to a woman but with her ties to sports.
“Awarding the Arthur Ashe Award to Caitlyn Jenner is just a crass exploitation,” he told Patrick, whose syndicated radio show is simulcast on DirecTV. “It’s a tabloid play. In the broad world of sports, I’m pretty sure they could’ve found — and this is not anything against Caitlyn Jenner — I’m pretty sure they could have found someone who was much closer to actively involved in sports who would have been deserving of what that awards represents. … I think this is a play to pump up audience the way lots of things are put on television, to attract eyeballs, not because of the validity but because of whatever the kind of gawker factor is.”
In announcing Jenner as this year’s Ashe Award recipient, ESPYs executive producer Maura Mandt said: “Bruce has received many accolades over the years for being one of the greatest Olympians of our time, but the ESPYS are honored to celebrate Bruce becoming Caitlyn. She has shown the courage to embrace a truth that had been hidden for years and to embark on a journey that may not only give comfort to those facing similar circumstances, but can also help to educate people on the challenges that the transgender community faces.” Jenner, who is starring in an upcoming E! docuseries about her transition, is planning to be onstage to accept the award as the ESPYs on July 15 in Los Angeles. Last year’s recipient was Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.