Last night, the who’s who of sports including the likes of Victor Cruz, Brandon Marshall, and more, attended the 2017 Jesse Owens International Athlete Trophy Gala in New York City, an annual recognition of sports legends who exemplify the ideals embodied by Olympian and humanitarian Jesse Owens: integrity, perseverance and service.
The prestigious celebration honored tennis legend Serena Williams and posthumously awarded Muhammad Ali for their achievements in sports and continuing the ideals of Jesse Owens himself.
NFL athlete and humanitarian Victor Cruz presented Ms. Williams with the Jesse Owens Athlete Trophy, given to the world’s best athlete as voted by a group of sports writers and experts from all over the world. Iconic filmmaker Spike Lee had the honor of presenting Muhammad Ali’s family with the Jesse Owens Global Peace Award in recognition of the boxing legend’s commitment to peace and justice outside the ring.
Jesse Owens Athlete Trophy:
Serena Williams, regarded by many as the best player to grace the tennis court, was honored with the 2017 Jesse Owens International Athlete Trophy. The award is presented annually to the world’s best athlete as voted by a group of electors consisting of sports writers and experts across the world. Serena joins the ranks of past Owens trophy winners Carl Lewis, Greg Louganis, Sebastian Coe, Haile Gebrselassie, Edwin Moses, Vitali Scherbo, and Eric Heiden, among others.
Jesse Owens Global Peace Award:
Muhammad Ali, considered one of the most significant global sports figures of the 20th century, posthumously received the Jesse Owens Global Award for Peace. The three-time heavyweight boxing champion’s achievements in the ring were arguably exceeded by the symbol of peace and justice he came to represent outside of it. Over time, he became a revered international hero. In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and he passed away in June of 2016. His family will accept the Award in his honor.
Jesse Owens Athlete Gala:
The gala, a touchstone annual event celebrating the intersection of athletic achievement and ethical sportsmanship, took place on Thursday, April 27, 2016 at Jazz at Lincoln Center. All proceeds go to the Jesse Owens Scholarship Fund at Ohio State and the Herb Douglas Jr. Scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh.
The 2017 historic ceremony falls on the 81st anniversary of Jesse Owens’ incomparable triumph at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he won four gold medals and defeated Hitler’s superiority ambitions. Herb Douglas Jr., bronze medalist in the 1948 London Olympics and protégé of Jesse Owens, co-founded the Award program with Owens’ widow Ruth and their three daughters in 1981. They saw a need to honor Owens and created this annual, charitable celebration where the biggest sports icons of yesterday and today gather to continue his legacy.