(The Hill) — University of South Carolina women’s basketball player Aliyah Boston has called out ESPN sports network for not inviting her to its annual ESPY award shows.
Boston, who was named the Naismith Women’s Player of the Year last season, released a statement on Wednesday that she was hurt by the network’s decision to not invite her to the ceremony.
After leading the Gamecocks to their second national championship earlier this year, Boston was nominated for the “Best College Athlete, Women’s Sports” category. She said the network didn’t have plans to televise the category despite televising the category last year.
The network quickly changed its decision and invited Boston to the award show, but she declined.
“To be nominated for an ESPY this year meant the world to me and my family,” Boston said in her statement, adding that “it hurt more to see ESPN change course and invite me only after social media caught wind of it. Respectfully, I declined,” Boston said.
Boston characterized the move as another moment of “disrespect and erasure of Black women” that was brushed off as a mistake or oversight, more than 50 years after Title IX was passed.
“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,” Boston said.
In a statement to The State, an ESPN spokesperson said the reason why Boston wasn’t invited to the award show was due to COVID-19 restrictions and a smaller venue with a smaller seating capacity.
“We have the utmost respect for Aliyah Boston, Dawn Staley, and the South Carolina Gamecocks,” An ESPN spokesperson told the newspaper. “Due to both COVID restrictions and a new venue with much less seating capacity than previous shows, The 2022 ESPYS prioritized athlete invitations to focus on specific awards that will be handed out during the broadcast.”
University of South Carolina head coach and basketball legend Dawn Staley called the network out on Twitter for neglecting to invite Boston to the award ceremony.
“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,” Staley tweeted.
The Hill has reached out to ESPN for comment.