Behind The Scenes

Laila Ali returns as co-host of Sports Humanitarian Awards

Laila Ali has hosted the two previous Sports Humanitarian Awards.
(Eric Lars Bakke/ESPN Images)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The third annual Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards, presented by ESPN, will celebrate and honor leagues, teams, individuals and members of the sporting community that are using the power of sport to make a positive impact on society. The sports industry-wide event will be held tonight at L.A. LIVE’s The Novo. Highlights of the evening will be showcased during a one-hour program on ESPN, July 25, at 7 p.m. ET.

Laila Ali, daughter of sports icon and humanitarian Muhammad Ali, returns as host of the third annual Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards tonight in Los Angeles. She spoke with Front Row about hosting the event for the third straight year, having the Sports Humanitarian of the Year award renamed after her father, and more.

What are you looking forward to as host of the Sports Humanitarian Awards for now the third straight year?
I’m excited that there’s a new venue and a new co-host, Mike Greenberg, and they renamed their big award the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award.

And I think that the fact that ESPN has decided to put this event together to recognize the good that athletes are doing . . . It’s nice to have a positive platform. I would like to see people striving to get one of these awards. I want people to want to get a Humanitarian award. – Laila Ali

What does it mean to you that the award honors your father as “Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian of the Year”? 
I think it’s great to preserve his legacy in that way and so many of the honorees reflect my father’s legacy in their own way, so it’s great!

What role should athletes and sports organizations have in trying to create impactful programs that benefit their communities?
I think for corporations to give back in a big way, is something they should do. The more they do it, the better. I think everyone benefits from it.

What do you enjoy most about working with ESPN on an event like this?
They’re pros. Obviously the event ran very smoothly, they have great producers, everyone’s working as a team behind the scenes. That always makes my job a lot easier.

How has sports driven humanitarianism?
We – as athletes – have such an amazing platform, whether you’re a football player or basketball player. Whatever it is, you have so many eyes on you, you can use your platform in a positive way and give back to the community. You can do philanthropy or charitable work. Giving back, that’s great.

And I think that the fact that ESPN has decided to put this event together to recognize the good that athletes are doing . . . It’s nice to have a positive platform. I would like to see people striving to get one of these awards. I want people to want to get a Humanitarian award. I would love to have a Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award on my shelf.

What do you remember most about last year’s Sports Humanitarian Awards?
Every time I walked down the stage, I always felt the warmth of the audience. They are a really good crowd, they like to have fun. It was a very easy hosting job for me because of ESPN.

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