New York, NY (October 12, 2022) — This evening, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) celebrated the extraordinary achievements of athletes and leaders in sports and the girls that they inspire, at its Annual Salute to Women in Sports. Recognized as the biggest night in women’s sports, the event, like the Foundation’s programming throughout this year, highlighted the 50th anniversary of Title IX while also calling attention to the vital need for more progress. Honored this evening with WSF’s signature Salute awards were history-making athletes – Sunisa Lee, Maggie Steffens, and Elana Meyers Taylor – one of the fiercest coaches in the SEC, Dawn Staley, and the lead founding investor in Angel City FC, Alexis Ohanian. The Salute was held at Pier Sixty on Manhattan’s waterfront, and was presented by WSF National Partners Athleta, ESPN, Delta Air Lines, Gatorade, Michelob ULTRA, NBC Sports, and TIAA with an exclusive reception partner DraftKings.
Throughout the night, the Foundation took time to commemorate Title IX’s 50th anniversary, reflect on the progress made and the work that still needs to be done to achieve a truly equitable future for all girls and women in sports. The Foundation’s research report, “50 Years of Title IX: We’re Not Done Yet” released earlier this year revealed that although girls’ participation in sports is nearly 12 times higher than it was at the time of the law’s passage in 1972, girls still have far fewer sports opportunities than boys had 50 years ago. Today, girls miss out on an estimated 1 million sports opportunities at the high school level compared to boys. This opportunity gap is widest among girls and women of color, LGBTQ+ youth and those with disabilities – who consistently have less opportunities than their peers. Tonight’s event was a reminder to all that there is a critical need for the Foundation’s essential work as they strive to build a future where every girl and woman can play, be active and realize her full potential.
“The Women’s Sports Foundation is a guardian angel and champion of Title IX, and fully understands and accepts its decades long mission to ensure true equity for girls and women,” said Billie Jean King, WSF Founder. “I am inspired by this remarkable group of honorees who are breaking records, eliminating barriers and blazing a path for a brighter future in and out of sports for girls and women.”
The coveted Foundation’s awards and this year’s honorees included:
Sportswoman of the Year Award – Team, presented by Clara Wu Tsai and Joe Tsai, and Sportswoman of the Year Award – Individual, presented by Delta Air Lines, – recognize athletes (in both team and individual sports) who exhibited exceptional athletic performance over the last 12 months.
- Team Sport, Maggie Steffens (Water Polo) – Three-time Olympic gold medalist, 2012, 2016, 2020; four-time Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) World Championships gold medalist, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2022; three-time NCAA champion with Stanford University, 2014, 2015, 2017; three-time FINA World Player of the Year, 2012, 2014, 2021; all-time leading scorer in Olympic women’s water polo history with 56 goals.
- Individual Sport, Sunisa Lee (Gymnastics) – Olympic all-around gold medalist, 2020; Olympic silver medalist (team), 2020; Olympic bronze medalist (uneven bars), 2020; three-time world championship medalist, 2019; NCAA balance beam champion, 2022; SEC Freshman of the Year, 2022; SEC uneven bars champion, 2022; Sports Illustrated Female Athlete of the Year, 2021.
Wilma Rudolph Courage Award, presented by Athleta, recognizes a female athlete or a team who exhibits extraordinary courage in their athletic performance, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity, makes significant contributions to sports and serves as a role model.
- Elana Meyers Taylor – Five-time Olympic medalist in bobsled and flag bearer for 2022 Team USA; most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history; advocate for mom-athletes and disability inclusion.
In partnership with the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, the Billie Jean King Leadership Award presented by Y. Michele Kang recognizes an individual or group who demonstrates outstanding leadership and makes significant contributions to the advancement of women through achievements in sport and the workplace.
- Dawn Staley – Head Coach of South Carolina Gamecocks; first Black woman to win two NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships as head coach; Naismith Hall of Fame basketball player and two-time National Coach of the Year; five-time WNBA all-star; advocate for gender and racial equality.
Champion for Equality Award, presented by TIAA acknowledges an individual or organization that shows unwavering commitment to gender equality and to the advancement of girls and women in sports.
- Alexis Ohanian – Founder of Seven Seven Six; Co-Founder and Former Executive Chair of Reddit; lead founding investor in the professional women’s soccer team Angel City FC; outspoken advocate for paid family leave.
More information about the honorees and their awards can be found here.
In addition to the award honorees, the evening showcased a special star-gazing experience featuring some of the nation’s top athletes, including Alysia Montaño, Toni Breidinger, Grete Eliassen, Jessica Long and more. The hosts for the evening were Emmy award winning broadcaster, Mary Carillo, three-time soccer Olympic medalist, Julie Foudy and award-winning basketball analyst, LaChina Robinson. Award presenters included long-time softball player and coach, Sue Enquist, track and field Paralympian, Scout Bassett and the first female to win the NFL Honors Game Changer Award, Sam Gordon. Each host, presenter and award winner shared their own unique Title IX story, highlighting the landmark law’s impact and the urgent need to protect it.
“Tonight, was not only about shining a well-deserved spotlight on everyone’s glass-shattering achievements, it was about paying homage to the Title IX pioneers and advocates whose vision, grit and determination got us to where we are today,” said Danette Leighton, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “As transformational as Title IX has been, its full promise has yet to be realized. It is vital for everyone – especially younger generations – to understand their rights to equal access and opportunity, to be vigilant in ensuring those rights are upheld, and to not take them for granted. We leave tonight energized and ready to carry Title IX into the next 50 years while remaining steadfast and resolute in our mission for girls and women to reach their full potential in sport and life.”
More information about the Salute can be found here.
About the Women’s Sports Foundation
The Women’s Sports Foundation exists to enable girls and women to reach their potential in sport and life. We are an ally, an advocate and a catalyst. Founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, we strengthen and expand participation and leadership opportunities through research, advocacy, community programming and a wide variety of collaborative partnerships. From its inception to Title IX’s 50th anniversary in 2022, WSF has invested over $100 million in these impact efforts, helping to shape the lives of millions of youth, high school and collegiate student-athletes, elite athletes and coaches. We’re building a future where every girl and woman can #KeepPlaying and unlock the lifelong benefits of sport participation. All girls. All women. All sports.® To learn more about the Women’s Sports Foundation, please visit www.WomensSportsFoundation.org.
Women’s Sports Foundation
Women’s Sports Foundation