The 2020 ESPYS will have a different look and format, celebrating not only the year in sports, but also highlighting inspiring stories of service, perseverance, and courage in the face of this unprecedented health crisis. The show will air this Sunday, June 21, (9 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN2), and is hosted by Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe, and Russell Wilson.
Senior Vice President and Editor-At-Large ESPN Content, Rob King, who oversees the show for the first time, gives us a bit more background on the challenges of producing the show in these difficult times.
It’s hard to start any conversation about The ESPYS without thinking of [longtime ESPYS producer] Maura Mandt, whose sudden passing still weighs heavy on our hearts. – Rob King
What an unprecedented time to take on this role. How have you approached it?
It’s hard to start any conversation about The ESPYS without thinking of [longtime ESPYS producer] Maura Mandt, whose sudden passing still weighs heavy on our hearts. Maura always thought of the show as an event that celebrated sports as a showcase for hope and heart and community, and I can only imagine what she would have thought of the world in which we find ourselves today. So one goal of ours was to do a show she’d be proud of.
While we were committed to presenting fans moments of humor and music and cool highlight packages celebrating some of the year’s best sports moments, we knew that a bunch of superlative awards for on-the-field action didn’t make sense in a year that saw the sudden end of so many events and seasons. So we decided to lean in on the ESPYS’ hallmark storytelling moments – the Arthur Ashe, Jimmy V, and Pat Tillman awards – and find additional tales of service and courage in the face of this current health crisis.
Despite being a taped show, we knew we’d want to leave some time in the show for something to be produced closer to the air date. That decision, fortuitously suggested by our production colleagues at MaggieVision, has developed into an important opportunity for The ESPYS to give athletes a voice to address issues of racial equality that are important to them, and to all of us, amid our national conversation. As we face a world in which advocates and allies are boldly addressing our nation’s continued path toward racial justice and equity, both in and out of the sports community, we’re proud to present a collection of stories and moments dedicated to this critical time.
Sports are more than entertainment for many people – they bring communities and families together and can serve as a unifying experience. We can all use that right now. – King
What are some of the challenges of producing The ESPYS right now?
Without a live show, there have been many challenges in terms of shooting content and overall production. But we have an amazing team both here at ESPN, led by Kate Jackson [coordinating producer, Special Events] and Josh Hoffman [producer], and at Maggievision with executive producer Jeff Smith overseeing that team. The collaboration has been incredible, with everyone working together on the technical elements, creative execution, and flow of the program. I think viewers are really going to enjoy this year’s show.
What do you hope people will take from the show?
Well, hope, actually. That frenetic period in mid-March when sports ceased signaled the onset of a frightful new reality. The gradual return of the games gives hope for better days ahead. Sports are more than entertainment for many people – they bring communities and families together and can serve as a unifying experience. We can all use that right now. We hope families will watch together with The ESPYS falling on Father’s Day, and hopefully, people are inspired by the way sports lie at the center of the stories of inspiration and generosity that we’re showcasing this year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Earlier this week on Front Row, SportsCenter anchor and V Foundation advocate Hannah Storm shares her thoughts on The 2020 ESPYS, The 2020 Sports Humanitarian Awards and the importance of the V Foundation’s cancer research fund-raising efforts.