University of Connecticut point guard Paige Bueckers paid tribute to Black women on Saturday at the 2021 ESPYS. While taking the stage to accept the award for Best College Athlete In Women’s Sports, the white student-athlete said she owes much of her success to Black women.
“I’m standing on this stage alone, but without them I wouldn’t have this award. They’ve sacrificed so much for me,” the 19-year-old said, noting inspirational figures such as ESPN reporter Maria Taylor, beloved journalist Robin Roberts, activist and basketball star Maya Moore, as well as softball star Odicci Alexander.
Moore, another UConn legend, was also honored at the ESPYs on Saturday when she received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The award, which has been previously given to icons such as Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela and Billie Jean King, honors those who have made an impact in sports and society, the Hartford Courant reported.
“As athletes, we have unique power and influence over our culture and communities for what matters most,” Moore said Saturday. “One of the best ways that we role model this is being honest about our own humanity first. We are more than athletes. We are complex, multi-layered human beings created to know each other and to be known in real relationship.”
Bueckers acknowledged the countless souls who have perished due to police brutality and the many other Black women who grapple with racism everyday.
“To Breonna Taylor and all the lives lost, and to those names who are not yet learned, but I hope to share, I stand behind you and I continue to follow you, follow your lead and fight for you guys so I just want to say thank you for everything,” she said.
“To all the incredible Black women in my life, on my teams. To Breonna Taylor and all the lives lost. To those names I have not yet learned but I hope to share — I stand behind you and I will continue to follow you and follow your lead and fight for you guys.”
— Paige Bueckers pic.twitter.com/uhGiMAYHSu
— ESPN (@espn) July 11, 2021
While urging the media to acknowledge the contributions of Black women, Bueckers said 80% of the post-season awards in the WNBA last season were won by Black players, but they only got half the amount of coverage of the white athletes.
“I think it’s time for change. Sports media holds the key to storylines,” the basketball star said. “Sports media and sponsors tell us who is valuable, and you have told the world that I mattered today, and everyone who voted, thank you. But I think we should use this power together to also celebrate Black women.”
According to CNN, Bueckers averaged 20 points and five assists a game as a freshman guard last season. She led the Huskies to a 28-2 record and a trip to the Final Four. The rising star became the first freshman to win the John Wooden Award, an honor given to the best women’s college basketball player.
Still, the reigning National Player of the Year didn’t spend much time gloating about herself during her speech on Saturday.
“With the light that I have now as a White woman who leads a Black-led sport and celebrated here, I want to shed a light on Black women,” she said. “They don’t get the media coverage that they deserve. They’ve given so much to the sport, the community and society as a whole and their value is undeniable.”