Annual Salute

2019 Wilma Rudolph Courage Award Recipient

Marta Vieira da Silva

World-renowned Marta Vieira da Silva of Brazil, who is widely regarded as the best female soccer player of all time, recently solidified her dominance at the 2019 Women’s World Cup by becoming the first soccer player (male or female) to score at five different FIFA World Cups as well as the highest-scoring player (male or female) in FIFA World Cup history with 17 goals scored. She currently plays as a forward for the Orlando Pride in the National Women’s Soccer League and on the Brazilian national team. Between 2006 and 2018, she was named FIFA’s Women’s World Player of the Year six times.

Dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment across the world, Vieira da Silva now inspires women and girls to follow their dreams as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for women and girls in sport as well as a UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate.

Born in Brazil in 1986 and growing up in a poor family, Vieira da Silva played street soccer without shoes and was often shunned by the boys she could outplay. Until 1979, it was against the law for women to play soccer in Brazil, leaving Vieira da Silva’s generation to challenge stereotypes and overcome barriers despite the change in law.

Forced to find somewhere else to play, she left her family at 14, taking a three-day bus trip to Rio de Janeiro to join her first club, Vasco de Gama. This bus journey would eventually lead her all over the world: to European championships, World Cups, and the Olympic Games to play in front of tens of thousands, and most importantly, to make the game available to girls in a way that it wasn’t made available to her.

In her own words, “All over the world, there are other girls who feel the same. Girls who get stares, girls who get asked why they’re out there, girls who get pulled from tournaments and called names. But that loneliness, it won’t last. And it won’t be long before you’re all playing together. My message to girls everywhere in this world: believe in yourself and trust yourself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.”

The 2019 Wilma Rudolph Courage Award was presented with the Richard and Pamela Ader Foundation.

2019 Billie Jean King Leadership Award Recipient

Sheila C. Johnson

Sheila C. Johnson is an entrepreneur and philanthropist whose accomplishments span the arenas of hospitality, sports, TV/film, the arts, education and community development.

As Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Ms. Johnson oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties including the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, which has been awarded the esteemed Forbes Five Star rating. The collection features two of the top golf resorts in Florida: Hammock Beach in Palm Coast and Innisbrook in Tampa Bay; the Henderson- in Destin, Florida; Hotel Bennett in Charleston, South Carolina; and Half Moon in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

As Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Ms. Johnson is the only African-American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams: the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NHL’s Washington Capitals and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, for which she serves as President and Managing Partner. She also served five years on the Executive Committee of the United States Golf Association.

In 2016, she co-founded WE Capital, a venture capital consortium to support and empower female-led enterprises. She also serves on the board of the Greater Washington Partnership, which seeks to strengthen the region’s global position as a center for commerce and innovation.

Ms. Johnson has long been a powerful influence in the entertainment industry, starting with her work as founding partner of Black Entertainment Television. She has served as executive producer of four documentary films, and also helped finance the Screen Actors Guild nominated feature film The Butler. She is founder and chair of the Middleburg Film Festival.

Ms. Johnson serves on the Board of Governors of Parsons The New School for Design in New York and the Jackie Robinson Foundation. She is a former member of the Leadership Council at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership.

Ms. Johnson served as the global ambassador for CARE, a leading humanitarian organization that combats global poverty by empowering women. She has received many awards in recognition of her humanitarian efforts, including being honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal and the distinguished Lincoln Medal.

2019 Champion For Equality Award Recipient

John Burke

A leader by example, John Burke has spent his career advocating for women in sport.

Since 1997, John has been the president and CEO of Trek Bicycle Corporation. Founded in 1976 by his father, Richard Burke, John joined the family business in 1984. The company has been at the forefront of technological innovation in cycling since its inception, and, under John’s guidance, Trek has continued to blossom.

Trek made their targeted push for the women’s market in 2000, when they launched WSD (Women’s Specific Design) line of bicycles and accessories. Trek began an event called “Ladies Night Out” for women to learn about cycling, discover new products and ultimately, encourage them to ride by joining the Trek Ride Club.

Trek is deeply invested in creating parity between men’s and women’s cycling and brought the issue of inequality to the forefront in 2017 when it announced that it would become the first Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Cyclo-Cross World Championships organizer to offer equal payout to both fields at an event hosted at Trek’s headquarters in Waterloo, Wis. Responding to Trek’s leadership, UCI – the sport’s governing body – mandated that as of 2020, all World Cup races must offer equal payout to both fields.

With its new Trek-Segafredo women’s cycling team, Trek has shown the world what the future of professional women’s cycling can look like, with 13 riders from 10 nations. In addition to comprehensive maternity benefits, each rider receives the same level of support as the men, including equipment, coaching, logistics, management and nutritional and medical guidance.

Looking to close the gender gap in the business of cycling, John has led the push for Trek retailers to include more women in the hiring process. Trek has also created a team of women’s advocates who welcome and inspire more women to join cycling. The initiative began in 2016 at Trek’s inaugural Global Women’s Summit and has grown to over 100 women advocates internationally.

In addition to leading Trek, John served as chairman of President George W. Bush’s President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and is a founding member of People for Bikes.