Bill Russell will receive Arthur Ashe Courage Award at ESPYs this summer

By WEEI 93.7

Few athletes have demonstrated more courage in taking social stands than Bill Russell, and the Celtics legend will be honored appropriately at the ESPY Awards this summer. ESPN announced Thursday the 11-time NBA champion will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which is given to socially courageous athletes in the name of tennis great Arthur Ashe, who died from AIDS in 1993.

"I'm humbled to receive the Arthur Ashe Award,” Russell said in a statement. “It is a great honor to be part of a unique group of previous recipients.”

A true champion both on and off the court.

— ESPYS (@ESPYS) May 30, 2019

Russell, 85, was one of the most prominent social activists of his time. A participant in the Black Power Movement, he was the first NBA player to visit Africa in 1959 and supported Muhammad Ali’s decision to not serve in the Vietnam War. In addition, Russell became the first African-American head coach in professional sports history, when Red Auerbach named him coach of the Celtics in 1966. 

He was also the most dominant player of his time, winning five MVP awards and getting named to 12 All-Star teams. Barack Obama awarded Russell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Recent Arthur Ashe recepients include the survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics. The ESPYs will air July 10.