South Carolina Gamecocks basetktball phenom Aliyah Boston responded to a late ESPYS invite: one that came after the oversight was called out.
The idea that one’s invite was “lost in the mail” is a sardonic spin on a sobering truth: the invite, in fact, was never sent in the first place.
South Carolina Gamecocks basketball star Aliyah Boston is perfectly aware that her invitation to attend the ESPYS wasn’t lost in the mail. According to Boston, there were “no intentions” that she ever attend the event.
The Naismith National Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the Women’s NCAA Tournament was nominated for the “Best College Athlete, Women’s Sports” category, yet the ESPYS showrunners did not initially invite her to attend the event — until Dawn Staley publicized the issue and the awards show faced backlash on social media.
Then, and only then, was Boston invited to attend, and she respectfully declined.
Saying it “hurt more” when the event extended an invitation only after facing criticism, Boston said that she is “used to this.”
“It’s just another moment when the disrespect and erasure of Black women is brushed off as a ‘mistake’ or an ‘oversight.’ Another excuse for why our milestones and accomplishments aren’t a ‘priority’ this time, even now, 50 years after Title IX.”
South Carolina star Aliyah Boston calls out ESPYS for shameful “oversight”, citing the “erasure” of Black women
What makes Boston’s message even more disheartening is that she is far from being the only athlete who feels this way. When UConn basketball star Paige Bueckers took the stage to accept her ESPYS award in 2021, she took the opportunity to “shed a light on Black women.”
“They don’t get the media coverage that they deserve,” Bueckers said. “They’ve given so much to the sport, the community and society as a whole and their value is undeniable. I think it’s time for change.”
Yahoo! Sports columnist Shalise Manza Young connected Bueckers’ speech to Boston’s message, saying that it’s “hard to believe the people who run the ESPY Awards were paying attention to Bueckers’ message.”
“Either that or they’re committed to proving how right she is,” Young continued.
Boston did not win the award, which instead went to Oklahoma softball star Jocelyn Alo, who, like Boston, is regarded as a generational talent. Alo, who cried at the idea of leaving the game because women’s professional softball is not nearly as supported as the MLB, tuned in to accept her award from home. If Boston was not invited, it’s likely that none of the nominees for this category were initially invited.
By contrast, the winner of the “Best College Athlete, Men’s Sports”, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, walked the red carpet at the star-studded sports event.
In light of Boston’s transparency, more questions remain. Was Alo invited when Young was? If not, could Alo have made travel plans on such short notice? In any case, Young’s presence at the awards show contrasts Alo and Boston’s absence, which doesn’t help revered athletes in women’s sports feel all that respected.
As for Boston herself, despite the challenges she’s faced as a Black woman in sports, she draws inspiration from profound leaders in the game like Dawn Staley.
“I’ve learned a lot from Coach Staley as a basketball player and a Black woman,” Boston told FanSided this May. “She has taught me how to be mentally stronger and off the court, she has taught me how to be confident and proud to be a Black woman.”