How The ESPYS Will Honor The Survivors Who Spoke Out Against Larry Nassar

"They have shown us all what it truly means to speak truth to power."

This year, the ESPYS — ESPN's annual award show recognizing sports-related achievements — will honor a special group of people with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. ESPN announced on Wednesday that the award will go to the hundreds of sexual assault survivors who spoke out against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

In January, Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison, following more than 100 statements from athletes accusing him of abuse. That included gold medalist Aly Raisman, who earned praise for her powerful testimony and who has continued to speak out on issues of sexual assault, and who started an initiative called Flip the Switch to help prevent further abuse. Other athletes to come forward include Raisman's former teammates Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, and Simone Biles.

"We are honored to recognize the courage of these women at The 2018 ESPYS, to acknowledge the power of their voices, and to shine a very well-deserved spotlight on what speaking up, fighting back, and demanding accountability can accomplish," Alison Overholt of ESPN The Magazine said in a statement.

She continued, "They have shown us all what it truly means to speak truth to power, and through their bravery, they are making change for future generations. By honoring this group who spoke out, we aim to honor all of those who are survivors of abuse."

The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is named after the late American tennis player and activist who raised AIDS awareness after being diagnosed with the disease. Last year, the award was posthumously given to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics. Other honorees have included Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, and Nelson Mandela.

The award announcement came on the same day it was reported that Michigan State University, where Nassar formerly worked, will pay a $500 million settlement to survivors of his abuse. According to ESPN, $425 million will be distributed to 332 claimants, while the remaining $75 million will be held in reserve for two years should other victims come forward.

"I'm very grateful for the historic number that acknowledges some of the hardships that these women have suffered," said Rachael Denhollander, who was the first to publicly accuse Nassar. "I'm also very disappointed in a missed opportunity to create meaningful policy changes."

ESPN's decision to recognize these survivors comes in the midst of a public conversation about sexual harassment and assault, thanks to movements such as #MeToo and Time's Up. Last year, Time magazine named "The Silence Breakers" as the 2017 Person of the Year, honoring the women and men who came forward with their stories.

The 2018 ESPY Awards will air on ESPN July 18.

(H/T: Teen Vogue)

Cover image: Petr Toman / Shutterstock.com

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