The ESPY Awards are always a night of remembering tremendous athletic accomplishments from the past year. There are also memorable moments at the ESPYs that are never forgotten.
This summer, the standout ESPYs speakers were UConn rising sophomore Paige Bueckers and inspirational triathlete Chris NIkic. Both dedicated their acceptance speeches to issues near and dear to their hearts.
Bueckers had taken women's basketball by storm unlike perhaps any player we have ever seen. She won four national college player of the year awards as a true freshman and lead the stories UConn program to the Final Four.
As she won the ESPY for best women's college athlete, Bueckers mind was in a completely different place. Her Huskies team is primarily comprised of black women, making her especially sensitive to the issues currently involving racial injustice.
"With the light that I have now as a White woman who leads a Black-led sport and celebrated here, I want to shed a light on Black women," said Bueckers. "They don't get the media coverage that they deserve. They've given so much to the sport, the community and society as a whole and their value is undeniable."
Bueckers continued to call for change in the way women's sports are covered. She implored outlets and brands looking for endorsement partners to celebrate black women, while also celebrating those she looks up to.
"To Maria Taylor, Robin Roberts, Maya Moore, Odicci Alexander. To all the incredible Black women in my life and on my teams. To Breonna Taylor and all the lives lost, and to those names who are not yet learned, but I hope to share, I stand behind you and I continue to follow you, follow your lead and fight for you guys so I just want to say thank you for everything," she said.
While in the past Bueckers might have not been able to do much to further her efforts towards fighting inequality, she now has a new platform to do so. In light of new name, image and likeness standards in college athletics, she can now become a top diversity and inclusion speaker as well as a brand ambassador for companies who represent the ideals she stands for.
Nikic's entire life embodies a different fight, but one that is just as crucial. He has Down Syndrome and is a shining symbol of possibility for anyone with disabilities after completing the Ironman Triathlon last November.
Nickic is currently training for the Ironman World Championships and took home perhaps the night's most prestigious honor, the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. As an accomplished motivational speaker already, his presentation is one that definitely will go down in ESPYs history.
“People ask how did I overcome so many obstacles, said Nikic. "Easy, I just got 1% better every day. Three years ago I was 18, overweight, out of shape, excluded and isolated. But my dream was to be like you, to be included, to be independent and to marry an amazing woman, like my mom.
Nikic's October will be a big one as he competes in Ironman and is a top-requested speaker for National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. He also shared more on stage in Los Angeles about what inspires him to keep going.
“It’s easy to make excuses and quit. I don’t do excuses and I don’t quit," said Nikic. "People ask, ‘Why don’t you quit?’ Because my dream is bigger than my freakin’ pain. So what’s next ya’ll? I want to inspire others and raise awareness for inclusion.
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