Peter Berg Stokes Controversy Over Caitlyn Jenner’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award

UPDATE 3:37 PM: Peter Berg has responded to criticism over the post on his Instagram account.

I have the utmost respect for Caitlyn Jenner and I am a strong supporter of equality and the rights of trans people everywhere. I also believe that we don’t give enough attention to our courageous returning war veterans, many of whom have sacrificed their bodies and mental health for our country and our principals- principals that include the freedom to live the life you want to live without persecution or abuse.

Original post: Following last night’s ESPN ESPY Awards, during which the Arthur Ashe Courage Award was given to Caitlyn Jenner, director Peter Berg further stoked the controversy surrounding the honor when he shared a meme on Instagram mocking the decision.

The meme originated with the conservative Facebook group Main Stream Media Sponsored Boycotts. It juxtaposes a photo of U.S. Army veteran Gregory D. Gadson, a former Army football team member who lost his legs serving in the Iraq war, to an image of Jenner. “One man traded 2 legs for the freedom of the other to trade 2 balls for 2 boobs,” the caption says. “Guess which man made the cover of Vanity Fair, was praised for his courage by President Obama and is to be honored with the ‘Arthur Ashe Courage Award’ by ESPN?” The Battleship director’s only comment was a succinct “Yup.”

Berg is far from the only person who has publicly criticized awarding the ESPY to Jenner. Bob Costas notably said, days before the ESPYs broadcast, he thought it was “just a crass exploitation play, a tabloid play.”  Meanwhile, ABC and ESPN publicly denied a report alleging that Jenner’s receiving the award was quid pro quo for the highly rated interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in which Jenner came out as a transwoman.

In her acceptance speech, Jenner acknowledged the controversy and used it as a means for drawing attention to the struggle of other transgendered people, saying in part “if you want to call me names, doubt my intention, the reality is, I can take it. But for thousands of kids out there coming to terms with who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it … So for the people out there wondering what this is all about, whether it’s about courage or controversy or publicity, I’ll tell you what it’s all about: It’s about what happens from here… It’s not just about me. It’s about all of us accepting one another. We’re all different and that’s not a bad thing — it’s a good thing.”

The controversy over the award didn’t diminish viewership however; last night’s show saw a 253% increase in viewership versus last year’s ceremony having been moved to ABC from ESPN.

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