The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF)—the ally, advocate and catalyst for tomorrow’s leaders — this evening celebrated the biggest night in women’s sports at its 40th Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards gala at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City presented by Chevrolet, espnW, Gatorade, NBC Sports Group and Visa. Every year this event honors the power of game-changing athletes and inspirational leaders in sports and life, who all collectively serve as role models to young girls and future generations. This evening’s event also featured a tribute to the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) presented with Visa, and an unveiling of the new WSF brand and call to action, #KeepPlaying.
The coveted awards and their recipients included:
Sportswoman of the Year Award – presented to an athlete (in both individual sport and team sport) who exhibited supreme athletic performance over the last 12 months.
- Individual Sport, Claressa Shields (Boxing) – Undisputed middleweight champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist.
- Team Sport, Megan Rapinoe (Soccer) – Two-time World Cup champion, Olympic gold medalist and FIFA 2019 Player of the Year.
Wilma Rudolph Courage Award presented with the Richard and Pamela Ader Foundation – presented to a female athlete or a team who exhibits extraordinary courage in their athletic performance, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity, makes significant contributions to sports and serves as a role model.
- Marta Vieira da Silva – Two-time Olympic medalist and soccer player with the most World Cup goals ever, male or female, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for women and girls in sport and a UN Sustainable Goal Development Advocate.
Billie Jean King Leadership Award presented with the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative – recognizes an individual or group who demonstrates outstanding leadership and makes significant contributions to the advancement of women through achievements in sport and the workplace.
- Sheila C. Johnson – Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and as the Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the only African-American woman with principal shareholder stakes in three professional sports teams: the Washington Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics.
Champion for Equality Award presented with TrailRunner International – this new award acknowledges an individual or organization that shows unwavering commitment to gender equality and to the advancement of women and girls in sports.
- John Burke – President of Trek Bicycle and recognized leader in gender equity in the cycling world, he led his company to be the first organizer of a major Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) competition to offer equal winner payout to men and women.
The event also featured a tribute to the U.S. Women’s National Team presented with Visa, a proud partner of the USWNT, in recognition of the team’s historic run up through and ultimate win of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™. Megan Rapinoe, the team’s co-captain and Team Visa athlete, surrounded by a group of girls from local soccer club America SCORES New York, was one of many highlights of the evening.
Further, WSF unveiled its new brand, celebrating the organization’s legacy of affecting change and their continued dedication to championing access, equality and equity in girls’ and women’s sports. The Foundation’s research has shown time and again that playing sports has many tremendous life-long benefits including: physical health and wellness, mastery of skills and capability leading to confidence and self-assuredness, as well as learning the value of dedication, teamwork and goal-setting which are strong hallmarks of leadership.
“For more than four decades the Women’s Sports Foundation has been at the forefront of championing the causes of women’s sports and advocating, and recognizing, programs and people that are working to provide women and girls equal access to all sports,” said Billie Jean King, WSF Founder. “Tonight we celebrate a new group of champions and leaders, and they represent a growing groundswell of support for gender equity that is taking place globally. I’m inspired by the courageous female athletes in this room and around the world who join our Foundation in heralding the power of women’s sports and its impact on future generations.”
NBC Sports’ Olympic correspondent Mary Carillo emceed the event. The Grand March of Athletes, co-hosted by ESPN commentator and two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist, Julie Foudy, and NBC Sports analyst and U.S. Player of the Decade and World Rugby Hall of Famer, Phaidra Knight, kicked off the evening by honoring the achievements of more than 50 World Champions, Olympians and Paralympians representing an array of sports, abilities, and backgrounds.
Elana Meyers Taylor, WSF President and three-time Olympic medalist bobsledder, took the stage along with WSF President-elect and three-time Paralympic gold medalist in wheelchair basketball and alpine skiing, Alana Nichols. Meyers Taylor shared with the attendees that proceeds from the event will benefit the Women’s Sports Foundation’s programs to strengthen and expand access and opportunities for all girls and women in all sports.