The 2015 ESPY Awards hosted by Joel McHale aired on ABC tonight, instead of ESPN, from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. McHale’s opening monologue poked fun at everyone from Bill Cosby to Jason Pierre-Paul and seemed to be fairly well received.
But the moment everyone was waiting for came roughly two and a half hours into the program when Caitlyn Jenner was presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Beyond the promos for her E! series, debuting Sunday, July 26, this was her first time speaking publicly as a woman. Jenner first discussed her transition in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in April.
Soccer star Abby Wambach presented the award, with Jon Hamm serving as the narrator of an emotional 13-minute video detailing Jenner’s backstory. “Wow. I have to talk after that?” Jenner asked before joking about her fashion choice for the evening (“a glam white dress” E! called it).
“Trans people deserve something vital. They deserve your respect,” Jenner said in an tearful 11-minute acceptance speech during which she thanked her family for standing by her.
“I’d like to thank personally, my buddy Diane Sawyer. You can only tell your story the first time once and you did it so authentically and so gracefully,” Jenner said to Sawyer, who was in the crowd. “I’m so proud to have you as a friend.”
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is named for the late tennis player, who died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1993. Past winners have included Jim Valvano, Muhammad Ali, Dean Smith, Nelson Mandela, Billie Jean King, Pat Summitt, Robin Roberts and Michael Sam.
The event also featured promos teasing ABC News special contributor Jesse Palmer’s access to the after parties, which will be featured tomorrow on Good Morning America. Robin Roberts also presented at the awards and will be reporting for GMA in the morning.