The veteran sports broadcaster called into “The Dan Patrick Show” radio program on Tuesday and described the network’s decision to honor the former Olympian as “a crass exploitation play.” Jenner won the gold medal in the men’s decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics.
“It strikes me that awarding the Arthur Ashe Award to Caitlyn Jenner is just a crass exploitation play — it’s a tabloid play,” he said. “In the broad world of sports, I’m pretty sure they could’ve found someone — and this is not anything against Caitlyn Jenner — who was much closer actively involved in sports, who would’ve been deserving of what that award represents.”
Costas said ESPN was essentially buying “into the ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ culture that has overtaken a good part of the cultural landscape.”
“That’s not to say that it doesn’t take some measure of personal courage to do what Caitlyn Jenner has done, but I think that every year we look across the landscape of sports, and we find prominent people and kids in high school and amateur athletes who I think more closely fit the description of what they’re looking for or should be looking for there,” he added.
“And I think this is a play to pump up audience the way lots of things are put on television, to attract eyeballs, not because of the validity, but because of whatever the kind of gawker factor is.”
Former Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipients include Billie Jean King, Michael Sam, Dean Smith, Muhammad Ali, four men who tried to prevent the 9/11 attack on Flight 93, Pat Tillman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
The ESPYs will air live on ABC on July 15.
Listen to the interview below.