Controversy Swirls Over Caitlyn Jenner's ESPY Award, ESPN Stands By Its Choice

Some fans are angry that Caitlyn Jenner has been chosen as this year's recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award

Photo: Vanity Fair

The world rallied around Caitlyn Jenner when she made her big debut on Monday. But not everyone is happy the former Olympian has been chosen to receive ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs on July 15, her first major public appearance.

Tom Cruise‘s 20-year-old son, Connor Cruise, for one, took to Twitter Wednesday to protest ESPN’s decision.

“Really?? Winning the AA award for courage?? Ashton is gonna come out and yell PUNK’D,” he said in a series of Tweets that have since been deleted. “Don’t get me wrong. Do what you feel like doing and don’t let anyone stop you. But everyone is taking this way too seriously There are so many more important things that should be talked about And SO MANY MORE IMPORTANT PEOPLE that actually deserve an award.”

After Cruise came under fire for his comment, he defended it in another series of Tweets, saying, “Totally twisting what I said, if you read what I said I totally support being happy and am glad she is happy.”

But he isn’t the only one who feels the award honoring those with “strength in the face of adversity” should have gone to someone else.

On Tuesday, a rumor began circulating on social media that Army veteran Noah Galloway – who lost his arm and leg in Iraq and went on to become a competitor on Dancing with the Stars – was the runner-up for the Arthur Ashe award. According to the fact-checking website Snopes, the rumor can be traced back to a Tweet by Boston radio personality and columnist Gerry Callahan.

The above photo and text quickly began making the rounds on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

But an ESPN representative told Business Insider there was no runner-up for the award.

Many Twitter users also declared that Lauren Hill, a college basketball player who died this year after a battle with cancer, deserved to win the award over Jenner.

ESPN issued a statement on Wednesday, saying, “The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is meant to honor individuals whose contributions transcend sports through courageous action. Sometimes that courage is demonstrated over the course of a lifetime and sometimes it is demonstrated in a single act that shines a light on an important contemporary issue. At all times, there are many worthy candidates. This year, we are proud to honor Caitlyn Jenner embracing her identity and doing so in a public way to help move forward a constructive dialogue about progress and acceptance.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, ESPY Awards executive producer Maura Mandt added in a press release, “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. 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, who won the Olympic decathlon in 1976, was touched by the honor.

“In the past few months, the overwhelming outpouring of support from all over the world for my journey has been incredible,” Jenner said, according to ESPN. “However, being honored with this award, which is named after one of my heroes, is truly special. For the first time this July, I will be able to stand as my true self in front of my peers.”

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