Image of Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner via Vanity Fair.
Image of Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner via Vanity Fair.

On one of the only days on the calendar that features no major sporting events, ESPN will present a gala event of its own in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday when it hosts the ESPY Awards, which will make headlines primarily for being the first major public appearance of Caitlyn Jenner.

Jenner, formerly known as 1976 Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner, will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the ceremony at the Microsoft Theater to recognize “the courage to embrace a truth that had been hidden for years.”

Bruce Jenner, who said he has long suffered from gender confusion and told ABC earlier this year that he identifies as a woman, was re-introduced to the world as Caitlyn Jenner on June 1 with a flashy photo spread and feature story in Vanity Fair magazine.

Later that day, ESPN announced plans to give Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which is presented “to individuals whose contributions transcend sports.”

“Bruce has received many accolades over the years for being one of the greatest Olympians of our time but the ESPYs are honored to celebrate Bruce becoming Caitlyn,” ESPYs executive producer Maura Mandt said. “She has shown the courage to embrace a truth that had been hidden for years, and to embark on a journey that may not only give comfort to those facing similar circumstances, but can also help to educate people on the challenges that the transgender community faces.”

Jenner said the honor is “truly special.”

“For the first time this July, I will be able to stand as my true self in front of my peers,” she said.

Previous recipients of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award include Muhammad Ali, Jim Valvano, Pat Tillman, Robin Roberts and Nelson Mandela. Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, received the honor last year.

The selection of Jenner to receive the award has generated some criticism — notably from sportscaster Bob Costas, who dubbed the choice “crass exploitation.” Some critics suggested that the honor should have gone to Lauren Hill, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor but continued to pursue her dream of playing college basketball. The Indiana native made the team at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati and played in four games — while helping to raise more than $1 million for pediatric cancer research.

Hill died on April 10 at age 19.

Hours before the ESPYs ceremony, organizers announced in a statement to USA Today that Hill will be honored during the show — noting that the recognition had always been planned, but was not previously announced.

The ESPY Awards honor celebrities from sports and entertainment to recognize major sports achievements and salute “leading performers and performances.”

Nominated for top male athlete are Stephen Curry of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Aaron Rodgers of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.

Best female athlete nominees are MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, University of Connecticut basketball guard/forward Breanna Stewart, skiing star Lindsey Vonn and tennis champion Serena Williams.

The ESPYs ceremony will be hosted by comedian/actor Joel McHale and televised on ABC.

Here is the list of nominees: Best Male Athlete

— Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

— LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

— Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

— JJ Watt, Houston Texans Best Female Athlete

— Ronda Rousey, MMA

— Breanna Stewart, Connecticut Basketball

— Lindsey Vonn, Skiing

— Serena Williams, WTA Best Championship Performance

— American Pharoah, Race Horse

— Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

— Lauren Haeger, Florida Softball

— LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Best Breakthrough Athlete

— Odell Beckham Jr, New York Giants

— Mo’ne Davis, Little League Baseball

— Cardale Jones, Ohio State Buckeyes

— Jordan Spieth, PGA Best Record-Breaking Performance

— Lauren Chamberlain hits 91st home run in NCAA softball

— Devin Hester takes punt in for 20th touchdown return

— Peyton Manning throws record-509th touchdown pass

— Klay Thompson scores 37 points in a single quarter Best Upset

— Georgia State over Baylor, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

— Kansas City Royals wins AL Pennant

— Mississippi over Alabama, FBS Best Game

— A’s vs. Royals, MLB AL Wild Card

— Spurs vs. Clippers Game 7, NBA Western Conference Quarterfinals

— Patriots vs. Seahawks, Super Bowl Best Play

— Odell Beckham catch

— Albany goalie lacrosse goal

— Bahamas Bowl Hail Mary

— Dwayne Bravo cricket catch

— Lionel Messi goal

— Jerian Grant dunk

— Malcolm Butler interception

— Josh Sheehan triple back flip

— Stephen Curry step back 3

— Ameer Abdullah touchdown run

— Ronda Rousey armbar

— Gerald Green dunk off the glass

— Tyler Ennis goal

— Shoni Schimmel circus shot

— Kevin Pillar catch

— Jeremy Menez goal Best Coach/Manager

— Geno Auriemma, Connecticut Women’s Basketball

— Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

— Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors

— Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Men’s Basketball

— Urban Meyer, Ohio State Football Best Comeback Athlete

— Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

— Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

— Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

— Lindsey Vonn, Skiing Best International Athlete

— Novak Djokovic, ATP

— Lewis Hamilton, Formula One

— Lydia Ko, LPGA

— Lionel Messi, Barcelona/Argentina

— Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid/Portugal Best NFL Player

— Tom Brady, New England Patriots

— Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

— DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

— Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

— JJ Watt, Houston Texans Best MLB Player

— Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

— Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

— Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

— Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

— Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels Best NHL Player

— Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

— Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

— Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

— John Tavares, New York Islanders

— Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks Best Driver

— Erica Enders-Stevens, NHRA

— Lewis Hamilton, Formula One

— Kevin Harvick, NASCAR

— Juan Pablo Montoya, IndyCar

— Will Power, IndyCar Best NBA Player

— Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

— Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

— James Harden, Houston Rockets

— LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

— Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder Best WNBA Player

— Skylar Diggins, Tulsa Shock

— Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

— Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

— Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks

— Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury Best Fighter

— Donald Cerrone, MMA

— Terence Crawford, Boxing

— Gennady Golovkin, Boxing

— Floyd Mayweather Jr, Boxing

— Ronda Rousey, MMA Best Male Golfer

— Rory McIlroy

— Jordan Spieth, Men’s Golf

— Billy Horschel Best Female Golfer

— Lydia Ko

— Stacy Lewis

— Inbee Park Best Male Tennis Player

— Marin Cilic

— Novak Djokovic

— Roger Federer

— Stan Wawrinka Best Female Tennis Player

— Simona Halep

— Petra Kvitova

— Maria Sharapova

— Serena Williams Best Male College Athlete

— Jack Eichel, Boston University Hockey

— Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin Basketball

— Marcus Mariota, Oregon Football

— Logan Stieber, Ohio State Wrestling

— Dansby Swanson, Vanderbilt Baseball Best Female College Athlete

— Taylor Cummings, Maryland Lacrosse

— Missy Franklin, Cal Swimming

— Lauren Haeger, Florida Softball

— Micha Hancock, Penn State Volleyball

— Breanna Stewart, Connecticut Basketball Best Male Action Sports Athlete

— Ryan Dungey, Motocross

— Tucker Hibbert, SnoCross

— Nyjah Huston, Skateboarding

— Mark McMorris, Snowboarding

— Josh Sheehan, Freestyle Motocross Best Female Action Sports Athlete

— Paige Alms, Surfing

— Kelly Clark, Snowboarding

— Stephanie Gilmore, Surfing

— Laia Sanz, Enduro/motorbike Best Jockey

— Javier Castellano

— Victor Espinoza

— Joel Rosario Best Male Athlete with a Disability

— Joe Berenyi, Cycling

— Josh Pauls, Sled Hockey

— Krige Schabort, Triathlon

— Mike Shea, Snowboarding

— Andy Soule, Nordic Skiing Best Female Athlete with a Disability

— Kendall Gretsch, Triathlon

— Tatyana McFadden, Track and Field

— Becca Meyers, Swimming

— Greta Neimanas, Cycling Best Bowler

— Jason Belmonte

— Parker Bohn III

— Mike Fagan Best MLS Player

— Robbie Keane, Los Angeles Galaxy

— Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders

— Lee Nguyen, New England Revolution

— Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls

— City News Service 

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