Aliyah Boston said no to ESPN.
The South Carolina women's basketball star who won a national championship and was named unanimous National Player of the Year and Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 2022 has declined an invitation from the network to appear at the ESPY Awards, its annual summer showcase ceremony awarding top athletes, teams and moments from the sports year.
Boston turned down the invitation that arrived after she was initially not included among the nominated athletes invited to the ceremony scheduled for Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
Boston: 'Another moment' of 'disrespect'
She addressed her decision in a statement released Wednesday morning.
"To be nominated for an ESPY this year meant the world to me and my family," Boston wrote. "While it hurt finding out that they wouldn't be televising the category despite it being televised last year, and had no intentions for me to attend. … it hurt more to see ESPN change course and invite me only after social media caught want of it. Respectfully, I declined.
“I’m 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.
“To every Black girl and every Black woman: no one can take away what God has in store for us. You matter. You are valuable. You are a priority. You are seen, and you are LOVED — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
I thank God for continuing to bless me, for guiding my steps, and for the love and support of my family, fans and community. I would like to say congratulations @78jocelyn_alo and all the ESPY winners🎉 I remain thankful in all things. pic.twitter.com/BkO2iPA8YS
— Aliyah A. Boston (@aa_boston) July 20, 2022
Why wasn't Boston initially invited?
Boston is nominated in the Best College Athlete, Women's Sports category alongside Florida State soccer player Jaelin Howell, Oklahoma softball player Jocelyn Alo and Boston College lacrosse player Charlotte North. Alo was invited as a nominee in the Best Team and Best Record-Breaking Performance categories, but the other three nominees including Boston were not initially invited. Neither were the nominees in the corresponding men's sports category.
A source involved with the show told Yahoo Sports' Cassandra Negley on Monday that Wednesday's ceremony will be held under COVID-19 capacity restrictions and that only nominees eligible for awards given during the primary broadcast received invitations. The men's and women's college athlete winners were scheduled to be announced at a separate ceremony.
Wednesday's ceremony will be held at the Dolby Theatre with a listed seating capacity of 3,400. It has hosted the Academy Awards since 2001. Last year's ESPYs ceremony that did broadcast the college athlete awards was held in New York at The Rooftop at Pier 17, which also has a capacity of 3,400. It's not clear if Wednesday's ceremony at Dolby Theatre will limit attendance below capacity.
Paige Bueckers was invited for same award last year
UConn basketball player Paige Bueckers won the Best College Athlete, Women's Sports award last year and spoke about lack of media coverage for Black athletes and award winners.
"To all the incredible Black women in my life, on my teams. To Breonna Taylor and all the lives lost. To those names I have not yet learned but I hope to share — I stand behind you and I will continue to follow you and follow your lead and fight for you guys.”
— Paige Bueckers pic.twitter.com/uhGiMAYHSu
— ESPN (@espn) July 11, 2021
"With the life that I have now as a white woman who leads a Black-led sport and celebrate it here, I want to show a light on Black women," Bueckers said. "They don't get the media coverage they deserve."
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley criticized ESPN on Twitter on Sunday for not inviting Boston.
Like really….who in the room from @espn @ESPYS decided it was a great idea not to invite @MarchMadnessWBB NPOY DPOY….not one person was able to see the uproar this would cause? There’s definitely something wrong with the make up of the room……the fight continue….#WBBSTANDUP
— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) July 17, 2022
Staley's tweet sparked a social media campaign joining her in criticizing the network that apparently led ESPN to extend the invitation to Boston that she ultimately declined.