She has been called the greatest female athlete of her time. It’s a reflection of the success she achieved as a track and field superstar. But it’s also an apt way to describe Jackie Joyner-Kersee as a person. She is the greatest. The East St. Louis native and six-time Olympic medalist is as gracious, kind and humble as they come.
For embodying those virtues on the track and throughout her life, Joyner-Kersee is receiving the highest award for sportsmanship: the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award. It will be presented to her at the Musial Awards as part of an extraordinary night celebrating and elevating sportsmanship in America. The event takes place on Nov. 18 at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis.
The Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University – honor the year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship and the biggest names in sports for their class and character. Produced annually by the St. Louis Sports Commission and the National Sportsmanship Foundation, the event and its awards are named for Stan Musial, the late St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer who was the ultimate good sport.
The Musial Lifetime Achievement Award is the pinnacle honor bestowed at the event. It recognizes an iconic sports figure who is synonymous with sportsmanship and exemplifies the class, generosity, excellence, and integrity for which Stan the Man was known. Joyner-Kersee joins Joe Torre (2014), Arnold Palmer (2015) and Cal Ripken Jr. (2016) as recipients.
Here are the recipients of the 2017 Musial Awards:
Michael Bidwill: Yes, a Bidwill is indeed receiving an award for sportsmanship in St. Louis. Michael Bidwill, the Arizona Cardinals president and son of owner Bill Bidwill, is being recognized for an admirable gesture of kindness and goodwill. For 25 years, the St. Louis Tom Lombardo chapter of the National Football Foundation has organized a banquet honoring the area’s top high school football players and scholar-athletes. The Rams had helped fund the banquet, but the team’s support ended with its move to Los Angeles, leaving the local chapter in a bind. This past spring, someone suggested the group reach out to Bidwill and the Cardinals for help. The team’s reply? “Send us a bill.” Bidwill came forward with a $10,000 donation. Despite the falling out between St. Louis and the Bidwill family from the Cardinals’ departure nearly 30 years ago, Michael Bidwill hasn’t turned his back on the community. His good deed is a great example of what it means to be a good sport.
Kaleb Carter and Carla Collins: In June, Carter and Collins competed in a Special Olympics bocce ball tournament in Medford, Ore. The teammates were awarded the gold medal. But after the medal ceremony, officials realized there was a scoring error, and the duo actually finished second. Special Olympics rules dictate that medals cannot be taken away from an athlete, even if given in error. But when informed of the mistake, without hesitation, Carter and Collins sought out the winning pair and placed the gold medals around their necks.
Aliyah Charbonier: At the Sugar Bert Boxing National Championship in Florida last fall, Charbonier, of Clermont, Fla., was set to box Amaiya Zafar, a 16-year-old opponent from Minnesota. But prior to the match, officials called off the fight and disqualified Zafar. As a devout Muslim, Zafar wears a hijab under her headgear as well as leggings and a shirt under her shorts and top – all of which were in violation of uniform rules set by the International Boxing Association for safety reasons. Charbonier felt the decision was unfair, even though she was declared the winner. The 15-year-old fighter was especially disappointed because young female boxers are challenged to find opponents. So she went up to Zafar, told her she was the true winner, and gave her the championship belt.
Abbey D’Agostino: The American distance runner was responsible for the standout story of sportsmanship at the Rio Olympics. In the 5,000-meter race, D’Agostino collided with Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand causing both athletes to fall to the track. D’Agostino got to her feet, but instead of continuing on, she helped Hamblin up and encouraged her to finish the race. It was an instance of remarkable selflessness. Moments later, Hamblin returned the favor as D’Agostino’s leg buckled from injury. Both runners crossed the finish line, an especially amazing feat for D’Agostino, who was diagnosed with a torn ACL.
Carl Edwards: Last November at Homestead—Miami Speedway, Edwards was among four drivers in contention for NASCAR’s Cup Series championship. He led the season finale race with 10 laps to go. But as he tried to block competitor Joey Logano from passing him on a restart, the two drivers crashed, ending Edwards’ shot for his first Cup Series title. Instead of losing his cool, as other athletes might have done, Edwards took the high road and showed pure class. He walked over to Logano’s pit crew, shook hands with crew chief Todd Gordon, and wished the team good luck. It was a gesture of extraordinary sportsmanship that was lauded throughout NASCAR. Based on the character he has shown throughout his career, it was not a surprise Edwards would take such a gracious approach. Winner of NASCAR’s Busch Series in 2011 and holder of 28 Cup Series wins, the Columbia, Mo., native’s success on the track is equaled by the class, respect and humility he has personified over time.
Matthew Garcia: Talk about uplifting. Garcia, a high school cross country runner from San Antonio, was in the stands last fall watching his younger brother’s youth football game. On the sidelines, the opposing team’s cheerleaders were performing a set of cheers involving their parents. As part of one of the routines, all of the cheerleaders were hoisted on the shoulders of their dads – with the exception of 9-year-old Addie Rodriguez, who was in tears. She had no one to lift her up because her father, a senior airman and medevac tech in the Air Force, was away on a training mission. Seeing Addie’s plight, Garcia ran down from his seat, jumped the fence separating the bleachers from the field, and asked Addie if he could pick her up. He lifted her above his shoulders to the delight of Addie’s mom and the crowd in attendance.
Paul Mainieri: In February, the LSU baseball program turned a home stand against Army and Air Force into a military appreciation weekend. The centerpiece of the tribute was a “Soldier Salute,” an idea devised by LSU head coach Paul Mainieri, one of the most successful and respected head coaches in college baseball. In the middle of each game, during a break between innings, Mainieri had his entire squad walk across the diamond to the other dugout, shake hands with the opposing players, and thank each cadet for their service. It was a unique and inspiring moment of sportsmanship, and a wonderful example of respect and appreciation on the playing field.
Dion Puthoff: The shortstop for the Russia (Ohio) High School baseball team, Puthoff found himself on the losing end of the state championship game after a walk-off hit by Jon Niemeyer of Minster High School. With the relay throw too late to prevent the winning run from scoring, Puthoff also found himself in possession of the baseball when the game ended. He held onto it, temporarily thinking it would make for a nice souvenir from what was an otherwise great season. But in the following days, Puthoff decided he wasn’t the rightful owner and the ball would mean much more to Niemeyer. So Puthoff boxed up the baseball with a note of congratulations, got in his car, and drove 20 miles to Niemeyer’s home in Minster. The Niemeyer family expressed their gratitude on Twitter, and from there, the story – and the baseball – went viral.
Krista Young, Levi Thompson, and the Hawkeye Wave: This football season, a magical tradition started at the University of Iowa. At the end of the first quarter of every Iowa home game, Hawkeye fans wave to the patients inside Iowa Children’s Hospital, which overlooks Kinnick Stadium. More than 70,000 fans get into the act, but it was the work of two – Young and Thompson – who got it all started. Earlier this year, Young asked Thompson, who manages the popular Facebook fan site Hawkeye Heaven, to use his platform to do something special for the kids at the hospital. They decided waving to them at the end of the first quarter would be the perfect thing. So throughout the summer, Levi promoted the idea. By the home opener, his posts had 2 million views, and the Hawkeye Wave was born. Now, every football Saturday in Iowa City, a collective spirit brings joy to those battling illness.
Additional background and stories on all of the 2017 Musial Awards honorees can be found by clicking on the “Honorees” link at MusialAwards.com.
MUSIAL AWARDS TICKETS:
Tickets for the Musial Awards are on sale through Ticketmaster and can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com, at the Scottrade Center box office and all Ticketmaster ticket centers, or by phone at 800-745-3000. Tickets are $50 and $35 in the orchestra level, and $25 and $10 in the mezzanine level. Additional fees may apply. The Musial Awards also offers all-inclusive tickets and packages that provide prime seating for the awards show plus a pre-show dinner, reserved parking and more. Information can be obtained at MusialAwards.com or by calling 314.345.5111.
In addition to the live awards show on Nov. 18, the Musial Awards will air as a primetime one-hour television special in December on KSDK-TV Channel 5, St. Louis’ NBC affiliate, with potential syndication in other markets. Last year’s Musial Awards broadcast recently won the Mid-America Emmy Award for Sports – One Time Special. It’s the fourth Emmy the show has won in that category and its eighth Emmy overall.
MORE ON THE MUSIALS:
The Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University – takes place annually the Saturday before Thanksgiving at the historic 3,000-seat Peabody Opera House in Downtown St. Louis. The show is produced by the St. Louis Sports Commission and the National Sportsmanship Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. In addition to keeping alive the legacy of Stan The Man, the mission of the Musial Awards is to inspire selflessness, integrity and civility in sports and society. Its organizers want to have a transformational impact, empowering people across the nation to be good sports.
Recent Musial Award recipients include golf legend Arnold Palmer, baseball hall of famers Joe Torre and Cal Ripken Jr., women’s basketball star Tamika Catchings, pro tennis player Jack Sock, Little League World Series sensation Mo’ne Davis, and sportscaster Ernie Johnson.
This marks the 12th year the event has taken place in St. Louis. Since 2011, Maryville University has served as the presenting sponsor for the Musial Awards.