In times like these, we could all use some hope and inspiration.
Leave it to the recipients of the 2020 Musial Awards to deliver.
The Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University – celebrate the greatest moments of sportsmanship and those in sports who embody class and character. This year’s honorees include a Baseball Hall of Famer (Hank Aaron), Super Bowl champion (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif), NASCAR Cup Series driver (Bubba Wallace), star tennis player (Madison Keys), and the winner of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials (Aliphine Tuliamuk). Their credentials are impressive, but it’s the weight of their actions that registers with the Musial Awards.
They are among a lineup of recipients that also features the first Musial Awards honoree from outside North America (Ireland Lacrosse), a basketball player whose comeback touched the nation (Josh Speidel), a high school coach who exemplifies fairness and respect (Sabrina O’Heron), and a duo whose lighthearted way of promoting sportsmanship was worthy of Musial recognition (Max Gerschman & Chris King). Altogether, the Musial Awards Class of 2020 is a beacon of kindness, selflessness, decency and civility in a time when those attributes are so needed.
Due to the global pandemic, this year’s honorees could not be recognized in person at the Musial Awards, which normally takes place the Saturday before Thanksgiving at Stifel Theatre in St. Louis. But the award winners will get their due and be celebrated in a nationally televised broadcast. The Musial Awards will air on CBS on Saturday Dec. 26 at 5 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. CT.
In addition to profiles on the honorees, the show will feature conversations conducted by two hall of fame broadcasters: Bob Costas, who interviews Hank Aaron, recipient of the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award; and CBS Sports’ James Brown, who talks with Bubba Wallace, recipient of the Stan Musial Award for Extraordinary Character.
This marks the second year CBS Sports is the official television partner of the Musial Awards. In addition to airing on the CBS Television Network, the show will air twice on CBS Sports Network.
In partnership with the St. Louis Sports Commission and the National Sportsmanship Foundation, the Musial Awards broadcast is produced by Al Roker Entertainment, the production arm of 14-time Emmy award-winning TV personality Al Roker. The show is hosted by veteran St. Louis anchor Mike Bush, who has emceed the Musial Awards for 15 years. In addition to highlighting the 2020 honorees, the broadcast will honor Stan Musial, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday on Nov. 21.
Here are the recipients of the 2020 Musial Awards:
Hank Aaron: Hammerin’ Hank is the recipient of the 2020 Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest award for sportsmanship. The award recognizes an iconic sports figure who exemplifies sportsmanship and the qualities for which Musial was known. Aaron has personified excellence, humility and dignity. Like Musial, he was a model of consistency and longevity during his Hall of Fame career. The target of death threats and hate mail during his pursuit of baseball’s home run record, Aaron courageously persevered and overcame the ugliness of racism. His strength, goodness and decency make him a true American hero – and as deserving a recipient as there could be for the Musial Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bubba Wallace: One of the most important sports figures of 2020, Wallace is receiving the Stan Musial Award for Extraordinary Character, which recognizes an individual who demonstrates remarkable poise, perseverance and overall sportsmanship. The award is one of two special honors bestowed by the Musial Awards (the Lifetime Achievement Award being the other). As the only Black driver in NASCAR’s top circuit, Wallace has been a trailblazer in his sport. Earlier this year, as the nation grappled with racial injustice, he took a courageous stand promoting tolerance, understanding and unity, underscored by his push for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at races. Under the media microscope, Wallace demonstrated tremendous grace, humility and decency.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif: After winning the Super Bowl in February, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman could have spent the offseason resting and reveling in an NFL title. Instead, he joined the battle against COVID. Duvernay-Tardif, who has a medical degree, returned home to Montreal to help front-line healthcare workers and was assigned to a long-term care facility. After opting out of the NFL season, he continues to work shifts at the facility. He has put aside his own comforts and success as a professional athlete to help his country and community. That’s the ultimate form of sportsmanship in the pandemic.
Max Gerschman & Chris King: Credit to this duo for a fun, lighthearted and clever way to bring sportsmanship to the forefront. Gerschman and King are the brains and drivers behind “Referee Appreciation Night,” a now 4-year-old tradition that takes place annually at a New York Islanders
hockey game. Gerschman and King gather hundreds of friends and strangers to show up dressed as referees and cheer the officials every time they blow their whistles – including going nuts for icing and offsides calls. In addition to promoting a “pro-sportsmanship agenda worldwide,” they use the opportunity to raise money for charity.
Ireland Lacrosse: The first Musial Award recipient from outside North America, Ireland Lacrosse is being honored for an amazing gesture of selflessness and sacrifice. In September, the team voluntarily gave up its spot in the 2022 World Games so that the Iroquois Nationals could compete in the event. By ranking, the Iroquois Nationals had qualified for the World Games, but were ineligible because
they are not a sovereign nation. World Lacrosse, the sport’s international federation, developed a process that eventually led to the International World Games Association allowing the Iroquois Nationals to compete if another qualifying nation withdrew from the event. Ireland Lacrosse answered the call. Its CEO, Michael Kennedy, said, “It’s simply the right thing to do.”
Madison Keys: The American professional tennis player is spreading kindness and sportsmanship to the masses. Earlier this year, Keys launched Kindness Wins, a nonprofit organization encouraging and celebrating acts of kindness. The effort grew out of FearlesslyGirl USA, an anti-bullying organization she created in 2016 to help empower young women. Even as she competes at the highest level, Keys is devoting time and energy to make a difference in how we treat one another.
Sabrina O’Heron: In February, the coach of the Silex (Mo.) High School girls basketball team set a
wonderful example of fairness and respect. O’Heron ensured her team’s game against Louisiana (Mo.) High School would remain evenly-matched after injuries, illness and foul trouble forced the Louisiana team to play shorthanded. When a Louisiana player fouled out in the third quarter resulting in the team having just four players left, O’Heron removed one of her players from the game. She did the same in the fourth quarter when another Louisiana player fouled out, finishing the game 3-on-3.
Josh Speidel: The University of Vermont graduate is being honored for his resilience and determination, which led to one of the year’s most touching moments in sports. Shortly after committing to play basketball for UVM in 2015, Speidel, a standout high school player from Indiana, was in a horrific car accident. He was in a coma for five weeks with a grim prognosis. Despite little chance of returning to the basketball court, Vermont coach John Becker kept Speidel on scholarship. On Senior Night in early March, the Catamounts honored Speidel by putting him in the starting lineup for their game against Albany. With help from Albany coach Will Brown, the teams arranged for Speidel to score a layup – his first and only collegiate points – capping off an inspiring, odds-defying comeback.
Aliphine Tuliamuk, Stephanie Bruce & Kellyn Taylor: In a moment when emotions tend to focus on one’s own performance, the three American distance runners came together to provide an uplifting instance of class and graciousness. It happened at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta in February. Tuliamuk, Bruce and Taylor all run for the HOKA Northern Arizona Elite running team.
Despite being considered a longshot to qualify for the Olympics, Tuliamuk won the race. Her teammates were predicted to have a better chance at qualifying. But Bruce and Taylor finished sixth and eighth, missing out on making the Olympic team – Bruce by just 19 seconds. And yet, despite
their personal disappointment, Bruce and Taylor rejoiced in Tuliamuk’s victory, embracing her at the
end of the race and wrapping themselves in the American flag. Tuliamuk returned the gesture showing great empathy for her teammates. Tuliamuk’s journey to make the U.S. Olympic team is in itself a remarkable story of perseverance. She was born in a tiny village in Kenya and is one of 32
siblings. She came to the United States to attend college and became a 14-time NCAA All-American –
and a U.S. citizen.
The Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University – has taken place in St. Louis since 2005. The event is produced by the St. Louis Sports Commission and the National Sportsmanship Foundation, a charitable nonprofit organization. In addition to keeping alive the legacy of Stan Musial, the mission of the Musial Awards is to encourage kindness, selflessness, integrity and civility in sports and society – and to inspire people across the nation to be good sports. Since 2011, Maryville University has served as the presenting sponsor. The school’s involvement, leadership and generosity have helped make the Musial Awards the most important awards in sports®.
The St. Louis Sports Commission is the privately-funded nonprofit organization that grows, strengthens and moves St. Louis forward through sports. The organization uses the power of sports to enhance the area’s quality of life and generate economic and social benefit for the St. Louis region.