Robin Roberts became known to many across the country as one of the first female sports anchors on ESPN in the 1990′s and today, she greets viewers each day as the beloved co- anchor of the country’s leading morning show Good Morning America. Roberts has spent nearly two decades on GMA where she delivers the day’s news, travels the country and world reporting high-profile assignments and conducts thoughtful interviews with entertainers, athletes and politicians, among others. She has blazed a trail for women in broadcasting, but it is also her personal journey that has served as an inspiration to countless people as she has overcome life-threatening illnesses twice, as America watched. The 2013 ESPYS will recognize the strength and courage Roberts has displayed throughout her life and career by honoring her with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Roberts love of sports started when she was a child in Mississippi where she was both a champion bowler and a high school basketball star. In 1983, Roberts graduated cum laude from Southeastern Louisiana University, where she played four seasons for the Lady Lions basketball team. She ranks among the team’s leaders for points scored, rebounds, field goals made and games played. In 1994, Roberts was inducted in the Women’s Institute on Sport and the Education Foundation’s Hall of Fame. Roberts was also inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 2012 class for her contributions to the game of women’s basketball through her on-court activities and her broadcasting work.
Roberts began her broadcasting career three decades ago as a sports radio anchor and reporter while still in college. She later held several anchor/reporter jobs in Mississippi, Tennessee and Atlanta before she joined ESPN as an anchorwoman for SportsCenter and NFL Primetime in February 1990. During her tenure at ESPN, Roberts national popularity grew as she took on additional roles including hosting ABC’s Wide World of Sports, serving as a play-by-play announcer for sports such as tennis and figure skating, and, in a ground-breaking moment, she stepped in to become the first woman to host an NFL pre-game show during the playoffs, as a substitute for John Saunders. In 1995, the Emmy-award winning Roberts also began working as a featured reporter for Good Morning America and for a decade, Roberts worked at both companies until being named co-anchor for GMA in 2005.
In 2007, Roberts’ professional and personal worlds collided as she chose to turn the cameras on herself when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She empowered viewers as they followed her journey to successfully beat the disease and began speaking out on breast cancer awareness and treatment. Her courageous public battle has been recognized with honors from organizations around the country, including The Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Just five years later, Roberts would face the toughest time of her life. In 2012, she announced she was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome), and she would be taking leave from GMA to receive a bone marrow transplant from her sister, Sally-Ann Roberts. Roberts brave battle with MDS brought attention to the illness and greatly increased the number of donors to the Be the Match Foundation, reportedly the world’s largest registry of potential bone marrow donors. Roberts returned to her seat at the anchor desk on February 20, just five months to the day since she underwent her bone marrow transplant.
“Robin brings an amazing amount of energy, compassion and determination to everything she does. Those qualities made her an incredible asset during her time here at ESPN, and they have served her well as she battled the terrible health challenges that she’s had to face,” said ESPN president John Skipper. “Robin’s accomplishments in so many areas – as an athlete, a broadcaster, a cancer survivor and more – demonstrate her ability to shine regardless of adversity and we could not be more proud to honor her as the recipient of this year’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award.”
“The entire ABC News family is incredibly proud that Robin is this year’s recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award,” said ABC News President Ben Sherwood. “Her unbreakable spirit was ingrained from an early age while growing up in Mississippi. As the daughter of a Tuskegee Airman and the first African-American to head the Mississippi Board of Education, Robin learned early on about fighting the good fight. She stood out as a high school and college basketball star, leading her team and setting records on the court. Robin’s tenacity didn’t stop there — she broke barriers to become the first female African-American sports journalist and broadcaster at ESPN. Her battle to beat breast cancer and MDS reflect her approach to every challenge, always thinking of others first with grace, generosity, humility and humor.”
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award will be awarded to Roberts at The 2013 ESPYS in Los Angeles. Presented annually to individuals whose contributions transcend sports, the Ashe Award is the emotional pinnacle of the industry-wide sports celebration, which will be televised live Wednesday, July 17, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPNHD from Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is presented each year to individuals whose contributions transcend sports. Past honorees include: Jim Valvano (1993); Steve Palermo (1994); Howard Cosell (1995); Loretta Claiborne (1996); Muhammad Ali (1997); Dean Smith (1998); Billie Jean King (1999); Dave Sanders (2000); Olympian Cathy Freeman (2001); Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, four passengers who lost their lives September 11 on United Flight 93 (2002); Pat and Kevin Tillman (2003); Liberian-born soccer legend George Weah (2004); disabled athletes Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah and Jim MacLaren (2005); Afghan female athletes (2006); and Trevor Ringland and Dave Cullen for their work with PeacePlayers (2007); U.S. Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos (2008); former president Nelson Mandela (2009); the Thomas family of Parkersburg, IA (2010); boxer Dewey Bozella (2011) and women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt (2012).
The ESPYS gather top celebrities from sports and entertainment to commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major sports achievements, reliving unforgettable moments and saluting the leading performers and performances. The 2013 ESPYS marks the shows 21st telecast and will recognize both sport-specific achievements, such as “Best MLB Player” and “Best WNBA Player,” and best-in-sport winners, such as “Best Team” or “Best Female Athlete” that pit nominees from different sports against each other. The ESPYS honor ESPN’s commitment to The V Foundation for Cancer Research, a partnership launched with the late Jim Valvano at the inaugural ESPYS in 1993.
Fans will determine the winners in all ESPY categories (except the Arthur Ashe Courage Award and other special awards) by voting online or on ESPN Mobile Web at ESPN.com/espys.
Sports fans can follow The 2013 ESPYS on Twitter @ESPYS and use the #ESPYS hashtag for live tweets during the show.