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Aliyah Boston Says It Hurt That ESPN Invited Her to ESPYs Only After Being Called Out

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 21, 2022

Gerry Melendez/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

South Carolina women's basketball star Aliyah Boston addressed ESPN's decision not to invite her to the 2022 ESPY Awards on Wednesday night.

"While it hurt finding out that they wouldn't be televising the category despite it being televised last year, and had no intentions for me to attend... it hurt more to see ESPN change course and invite me only after social media caught wind of it," she said in a statement. "Respectfully, I declined."

Aliyah A. Boston @aa_boston

I thank God for continuing to bless me, for guiding my steps, and for the love and support of my family, fans and community. I would like to say congratulations <a href="https://twitter.com/78jocelyn_alo?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@78jocelyn_alo</a> and all the ESPY winners🎉 I remain thankful in all things. <a href="https://t.co/BkO2iPA8YS">pic.twitter.com/BkO2iPA8YS</a>

Boston added the slight represented "another moment when the disrespect and erasure of Black women is brushed off as a 'mistake' or an 'oversight.'"

Fans began asking questions when Boston, a nominee for the Best College Athlete in women's sports, wasn't listed among the attendees for the ESPYs. Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley joined the chorus of voices pressing ESPN for answers:

dawnstaley @dawnstaley

Like really….who in the room from <a href="https://twitter.com/espn?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@espn</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPYS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPYS</a> decided it was a great idea not to invite <a href="https://twitter.com/MarchMadnessWBB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MarchMadnessWBB</a> NPOY DPOY….not one person was able to see the uproar this would cause? There’s definitely something wrong with the make up of the room……the fight continue….<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WBBSTANDUP?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WBBSTANDUP</a>

ESPN provided a statement to the State's Michael Sauls addressing the situation:

"We have the utmost respect for Aliyah Boston, Dawn Staley and the South Carolina Gamecocks. Due to both COVID restrictions and a new venue with much less seating capacity than previous shows, The 2022 ESPYs prioritized athlete invitations to focus on specific awards that will be handed out during the broadcast.”

That still left many wondering why ESPN would select a venue and setup that wouldn't accommodate the attendance of every nominee.

The network's handling of the ESPYs came under scrutiny as part of a wider systemic issue concerning how ESPN and the sports media writ large cover women's sports.

ESPN.com's Katie Barnes profiled Connecticut Sun star Jonquel Jones and laid out how Jones and other Black WNBA players are often underrepresented relative to their white peers.

Risa Isard, a research fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, examined how WNBA players were mentioned in stories across multiple outlets in 2020 and found "Black players with more masculine gender expressions received the least amount of coverage."

ESPN @espn

Whether or not a player receives media coverage can, of course, have a ripple effect. <a href="https://t.co/9sn314TGx7">pic.twitter.com/9sn314TGx7</a>

Without knowing the context, it might not seem like a big deal that UConn star Paige Bueckers was on hand for the 2021 ESPYs and gave a heartfelt speech after winning Best College Athlete, whereas Oklahoma softball star Jocelyn Alo had her 2022 win announced in advance.

But representation matters, and the 2022 ESPY Awards were another reminder of that.

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