Editor’s Note: Courtney Pollack is an infrastructure support specialist who joined ESPN in 2003. In 2004, she became the first transgender employee at ESPN to transition on the job from male to female. She is the communication chair for ESPN EQUAL, ESPN’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. Wednesday in Los Angeles, Pollack attended The 2015 ESPYS Presented By Capital One, where Caitlyn Jenner was presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Pollack recaps her ESPYS experience for Front Row.
They say that the lights shine bright on Broadway, however, this week they shined a little brighter in LA! As I write this I am traveling back to the East Coast, thinking about the amazing experience I was able to share with my two children at the 2015 ESPY Awards.
About a month ago, my kids and I were invited to go to the 2015 ESPY Awards as personal guests of ESPN President John Skipper. All of this wouldn’t be possible without the incredible assistance of Denise Pellegrini, senior executive assistant to John.
The day started early, after a small breakfast, the prepping for the night was well under way. Makeup: check! Hair: check. Dress and shoes: double check. We were on our way to what would be one of the most memorable nights of our lives.
We walked from the hotel to the red carpet, listening to all of the excited fans cheering on their favorite sports heroes. It wasn’t long before we saw one of our favorites, Derek Jeter! We snapped a few pictures, and on we went into the Microsoft Theater.
As we took our seats, my kids and I were in awe as everywhere we turned, another star athlete was sitting just steps away: The Captain, Jeter, was just three rows in front of us! Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkowski, LeBron James, Odell Beckham Jr., Ronda Rousey, and of course the Women’s World Cup championship soccer team!
Because the 2015 ESPYS were hosted by comedian Joel McHale, the laughs were not in short supply. Celebrities such as Halle Barry, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong and Ben Affleck took the stage to present the awards to some of the best athletes in the world.
Some of the moving moments from the night included the presentation of the The Jimmy V Perserverance Award, which was given to NFL lineman Devon Still and his courageous five-year-old daughter, Leah. The Pat Tillman Award was presented to Danielle Green, an Army vet who lost her left arm during the war in Iraq.
The most anticipated moment of the show began as soccer star Abby Wambach introduced Caitlyn Jenner as the 2015 recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. A beautiful video package was played highlighting the life of Ms. Jenner’s Olyimpic fame, and her struggles with gender identity. She graciously accepted the award which was followed by a very powerful and moving acceptance speech. With tears in my eyes, my children’s hands clenched in mine, I realized that on this very night, the transgender community had finally arrived!
The show was over, yet the night was just getting started!
With my kids in tow, my ESPN colleagues Sara Johnson (with her brother), Christina Kahrl (alongside her wife) and I were escorted to a private reception where we would join Caitlyn with her family and friends to celebrate her special night. We met Caitlyn, and shared food and drinks, accompanied by wonderful conversation with her and other guests. This was absolutely a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.
After we left Caitlyn’s party, we continued on to the ESPYS post party. In what seemed like the size of an airplane hanger, the enormous tent had been transformed into an all-out celebration!
Special musical guests Ciara and Big Sean entertained the massive crowd of partygoers. I have to say, the giant ESPYS sign which was covered in doughnuts, was definitely a great treat to wind down the night – not to mention the In-N-Out burger truck we seem to have missed on our way in.
I never would have imagined that I would have an opportunity to attend the ESPYS, let alone share this experience with my children, both of whom have grown up on the SportsCenter set!
To the folks who made it all possible, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am forever in your debt.