This week — and for the last several, actually — ESPN has been heavily criticized for giving Caitlyn Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

Many felt like the former Bruce Jenner — who revealed her new self on the cover of Vanity Fair recently — wasn't deserving of the award. Others felt like ABC (which owns ESPN) likely struck a deal with Jenner's people that resulted in an exclusive interview with the network in exchange for the moment at this week's ESPY Awards.

Never missing an opportunity to pile on to the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader — a phenomenon I've never quite understood — the general public lashed out and made it feel like there were other deserving potential honorees.

I'm not here to argue any of that, necessarily. There were other deserving people. Lauren Hill, who was suffering from terminal brain cancer when she took to the basketball court not long before her death in April of this year, would have been a terrific choice.

Some of the others who have appeared in meme form on your Facebook wall would also have been fine selections.

But, to say that there were other deserving people isn't any big revelation. Anytime there's an award like that given out, there are strong arguments to made for other people. Maybe you agree with the eventual choice, maybe you don't. You have a right to not agree, of course.

However, I can't help but think that the backlash here isn't really about Hill or any other potential winner of an award that — let's face it — most of you had never heard of until now.

Society's views on LGBT issues are progressing quickly, but that doesn't meant there aren't some people who still are clinging to what they deem "traditional" values.

Like any major shift in civil rights throughout history, change takes time and not everybody will always be on board. I think the recent debate over the Confederate battle flag outlines that pretty nicely.

Truth is, we're not always as civilized as we'd like to think we are. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, after all.

Arthur Ashe was a courageous man, without question. He was a trail blazer and one who should be remembered with reverence.

I think — hope — that society will one day look back at Caitlyn Jenner in a similar way. She has forced us all to examine ourselves and confront our biases. She lives in a world where most people aren't comfortable with her. She also lives in a world where people will continue to use the pronouns "he" and "him" when referring to her.

Like I said, change takes time.

But make no mistake about it, she is a courageous person. Once, she was arguably the greatest athlete in the world. Now, she's the champion for a segment of society that is not only overlooked, but sneered at.

She has put herself out there for the world to see. Some will love her for it, some will hate her for it.

To insinuate her actions are anything but courageous is quite cowardly.

Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at aparkhouse@thenewsdispatch.com or 1-219-214-4170.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.