For more than 10 years, ESPN has recognized outstanding individual and athletic achievements from the past calendar year at its ESPY awards ceremony. This year the highlight was without a doubt the groundbreaking honoree Caitlyn Jenner, who made her first official public appearance last night to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
The decision to honor Jenner was not without controversy, but as she said in her speech, "If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead. The reality is, I can take it." She then proceeded to call attention to the plight of trans people, including high murder and suicide rates, before calling on all the famous athletes in the audience to join her in cultivating a culture of respect for others' differences.
"As a group, as athletes, how you conduct your lives, what you say, what you do, is absorbed and observed by millions of people, especially young people," she reminded the audience.
The entire speech is worth watching (or re-watching), but Jenner was not the only inspiring athlete to take the stage. Here are some of our favorite soundbites from the ceremony.
On being different
“It’s not just about me, it’s about all of us accepting one another. We’re all different — that’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing and while it may not be easy to get past the things you always don't understand, I want to prove that it is absolutely possible if we only do it together."
—Caitlyn Jenner, Olympic gold medalist, Arthur Ashe Courage Award Recipient
On challenging yourself
“So, if my story leaves you with one thing tonight, I hope it leaves you with a challenge. Ask yourself: What’s my purpose? What’s my passion? What do I want my legacy to be? How can I live as a full human being? Not all of us are Pat Tillman, but we can all find ways to serve our community. We can all find ways to support the people around us. We can all find a purpose on this Earth larger than ourselves.”
—Danielle Green, Wounded U.S. Army veteran and former Notre Dame basketball player, Pat Tillman Award winner
On overcoming obstacles
“When you get knocked down you put mind over matter and you do everything possible to get back to where you started.”
—Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots tight end, Best Comeback Athlete Winner
On girl power
"I wonder how he feels getting beat by a woman for once."
—Ronda Rousey, UFC champion, Best Fighter, on beating Floyd Mayweather for the honor. Rousey also took home Best Female Athlete, saying in her speech “I want to thank all of the women nominees and all of the women here for being the change that we want to see in the world."
On the true heroes in the world
“For every child out there battling cancer: On TV I look like the hero, I look like I’m saving the day, but honestly you are all the real heroes.”
—Devon Still, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle, accepting the Jimmy V Perseverance Award honoring his daughter Leah, who is battling cancer.