In a year that saw the conviction of disgraced former Team USA doctor and Michigan State University physician Larry Nassar, the 2018 ESPY awards took it upon itself to shine a light on the unity of the sexual assault survivors and celebrated the feats performed by female athletes over the past year. The show was hosted by former race driver Danica Patrick, the first woman to host the ESPYs since their inception in 1993.
In a somber, spine-tingling moment that brought several in attendance at the Microsoft Theater to tears, around 100 women took the center stage while singer MILCK, an abuse survivor herself, sang her anthemic single, “Quiet.” Each woman in the group that filled the stage was representative of the “sister survivors” who spoke out against Nassar.
“Telling our stories of abuse over and over again in detail is not easy,” said Sarah Klein, a former gymnast and victim of Nassar’s abuse. “It’s grueling, it’s painful, but it’s time. We must start caring about children’s safety more than we do about adults’ reputations.”
MILCK told Variety that the ESPYs giving the survivors a platform to celebrate their courage is important because it gives audience members who may be hiding their own stories of abuse and trauma the courage to speak out.
“If even one person finds the bravery to stand forward, that’s incredible, that’s culture changing,” she said.
Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Jamie Anderson said the moment showed a unity among women that is important for audiences to see.
“When you grow up and become a woman, you become more supportive of your fellow women,” Anderson said. “It’s more coming together and helping each other be their best.”
CJ Perry, who wrestles for WWE under the moniker ‘Lana,’ said it’s important for people to have support networks, and it should be encouraged rather than seen as a weakness.
“No one should fight this alone,” Perry said. “With any injustice that happens, you should not just fight alone. There needs to be people who fight and speak out and speak up against injustice. That’s the only way to make society better.”
Team USA gymnast Aly Raisman echoed a similar sentiment in the final speech of the night, saying that predators thrive in silence, and people who choose to do nothing on behalf of victims are shaping the world negatively for others.
“We may suffer alone, but we survive together,” Raisman said.
The full list of honorees:
Best Male Athlete: Alexander Ovechkin
Best Female Athlete: Chloe Kim
Best Olympic Moment: Shaun White
Best Championship Performance: Nick Foles
Best Breakthrough Athlete: Donovan Mitchell
Best Game: USA Women’s Hockey defeats Canada
Best Moment: Minnesota Vikings defeat the New Orleans Saints
Best Team: Houston Astros
Best College Athlete: Baker Mayfield
Best Play: Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale hits second buzzer beater to win NCAA women’s national title
Best Record-Breaking Performance: Roger Federer
Best International Men’s Soccer Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Best International Women’s Soccer Player: Sam Kerr
Best NFL Player: Tom Brady
Best MLB Player: Mike Trout
Best NHL Player: Alexander Ovechkin
Best Driver: Martin Truex Jr.
Best NBA Player: LeBron James
Best WNBA Player: Maya Moore
Best Fighter: Terence Crawford
Best Male Golfer: Jordan Spieth
Best Female Golfer: Sung-Hyun Park
Best Male Olympian: Shaun White
Best Female Olympian: Chloe Kim
Best Male Tennis Player: Roger Federer
Best Female Tennis Player: Sloane Stephens
Best Male Action Sports Athlete: David Wise
Best Female Action Sports Athlete: Chloe Kim
Best Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Best Male Athlete with a Disability: Mike Schultz
Best Female Athlete with a Disability: Brenna Huckaby
Best Bowler: Rhino Page
Best MLS Player: Nemanja Nikolic
Best NWSL Player: Megan Rapinoe
Jimmy V Award for Perseverance: Jim Kelly
Arthur Ashe Award for Courage: survivors who spoke out against sexual abuse by their former team doctor
Pat Tillman Award for Service: Jake Wood, Team Rubicon
Best Coach: Aaron Feis, Scott Beigel and Chris Hixon (coaches at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School)