SBJ/May 29-June 4, 2017/Media

Ali’s name to go on top honor at ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian Awards

The Sports Humanitarian Awards turns 3 in July with a bigger venue, a new sponsor and a new name for its biggest award.

ESPN, which produces the event, partnered with Muhammad Ali’s family to rename the night’s biggest award in honor of the former heavyweight champion. The Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award will be the event’s signature award.

Ali’s daughter Laila will host the event for the second straight year. ESPN’s Mike Greenberg joins as host this year.
“When we launched this in 2015, I was afraid that it wouldn’t have legs, but it stayed on track and stayed on purpose,” said Kevin Martinez, ESPN’s vice president of corporate citizenship. “This is an important year for us. Everyone who has run special events knows that the third year is the charm. If you show growth in the third year, you have a good chance of continuing on.”

The July 11 event will be held the day before the ESPYs. This year, it moves to The Novo in Los Angeles, which is a bigger venue than the Conga Room at L.A. Live where it’s been held since launch. Martinez expects around 300 attendees — similar to last year. He said the new venue gives the event room to grow, envisioning a time when the public can get tickets for the event.

Martinez credited ESPN President John Skipper for rallying support internally around the event, directing the company’s writers and publicists to focus on the show. ESPN will televise the show as a one-hour special at 7 p.m. ET on July 25. In previous years, it had been a half-hour show.

In addition to being the presenting sponsor of the Sports Humanitarian Awards, Bristol-Myers Squibb is an associate sponsor of the ESPYs, sponsoring the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.

The event saw a record number of nominations this year — about 200, a 25 percent increase from last year. The PGA Tour is participating for the first time, joining MLB, MLS, the NBA, NFL, NHL, PGA Tour, USOC, USTA, WNBA and WWE.

Finalists for the awards are announced next month.

ESPN will donate $1 million to various charities from the event, Martinez said. ESPN will donate $100,000 to the charities picked by the winners; $25,000 for each of the finalists. ESPN also will funnel net proceeds from the event to benefit the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation. Last year, $785,000 was donated.

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