The ESPYs, ESPN’s annual award show, isn’t a show known to make much news. There isn’t a lot of juice in handing out awards for sports achievements that are nearly a year old. The most memorable ESPY moments occur when the awards become a platform for a bigger message. The classic example is Jim Valvano’s speech at the time he was battling terminal cancer. That moment led to the creation of the Jimmy V foundation for cancer research, and became the high water mark for the awards.
The 2014 ESPYs handed out a bunch of awards, but the real moment of the night occured when The Rock handed out the 2014 Arthur Ashe ESPY award to Michael Sam. Sam is the first openly gay athlete to be drafted by a NFL squad, and in the fall he will try to make history by appearing on the opening day roster. Before Sam it was just assumed that the proper role of gay athletes was living deep in the closet. The conventional wisdom was that the ultra-masculine locker room was no place for this issue. Sam continues to prove with grace and humility that those old rules were meant to be broken.
Check out the video of his speech below.