Not Arthur Ashe courage

Is Caitlyn Jenner an accurate depiction of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award?

by Howard Robertson and Larry Robinson | 6/19/2015, 12:10 p.m.
Is Caitlyn Jenner an accurate depiction of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award?

We wanted to be absolutely sure, so we looked it up again. The dictionary definition of courage read: “The quality of mind and spirit that enables a person to face difficulties, danger, pain etc. without fear.” Then we reflected on the life journey of Arthur Ashe.

Again and much stronger than the first time was our clear conclusion that ESPN is trippin’ off the greedy motivation and expectations of audience, ratings and revenue by putting the new name of the athlete formerly known as Bruce on the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

This is not judgmental by any means regarding Caitlyn’s transition. He or she is free to become whatever his or her dollars and disposition desire. But ESPN, please don’t insult our intelligence as you endeavor to justify a clearly self-serving selection.

While Caitlyn may be a new “she-ro” to some, Arthur Ashe is a long standing hero to us and there is nothing about the courage he showed in his life and time that the athlete formerly known as Bruce ever came close to exemplifying. Bruce never came close because he never had to. Neither his life nor career required that kind of courage.

Despite having fairly respectable vocabularies, we can’t come up with a word that accurately or appropriately describes the kind of courage displayed by a college football player turned Olympic Gold Medal decathlete turned American sports legend turned popular TV personality turned 3x husband, 2x father, 4x step father, turned into over $100 million of net worth and most recently...turned into a woman. We don’t know what that kind of “courage” is called but we do know it’s not Arthur Ashe courage.

Arthur Ashe’s courage began to develop after death took his mother in 1949 when he was only six years old in Richmond. His loving but strict, no nonsense father took over raising his brother and him in severely segregated Virginia in the 1950s. He was introduced to tennis at the age of 7, which began his fight and ascent up through the ranks of, arguably, the most elitist, racist and separatist sport of that time. Yet, he excelled winning the junior national titles in 1960 and 1961, then earning a tennis scholarship to UCLA. He went on to become and remains the first and only African-American man to win the U.S. Open, to win Wimbledon and to become the No.1 tennis player in the world.

Arthur Ashe was and is the Jackie Robinson of men’s tennis. But along the way he had other fights too. He battled heart attack, two bypass surgeries, emergency brain surgery, contracted AIDs from a tainted blood transfusion and finally pneumonia. All while he was fighting for his own life, he was fighting for the lives of others as well. He was a global activist and fundraiser fighting for AIDs treatment, even speaking at the United Nations. He marched and protested against the U.S. treatment of Haitians and despite being emaciated and deathly ill, was led away in handcuffs and locked up in jail. He died one year later in 1993.