Laila Ali, Russell Wilson, Ciara & Andy Grammer Step Out for the 2019 ESPN Sports Humanitarian Awards

The ceremony, which celebrates the impact made by athletes who made a difference this year, will air a TV special later tonight on ESPN.

Today’s biggest athletes aren’t just leaders in their respective sports; they also make a huge difference throughout the world by using their power to do good.

In honor of the 2019 ESPYS, ESPN held the Sports Humanitarian Awards at The Novo one day before the big show in Los Angeles and it truly did not disappoint. Hosted by Ciara with a performance from Andy Grammer, the fifth annual event celebrated the impact made by athletes, teams and sports who made a difference this past year.

Featuring four iconic categories, this year’s finalists included:

  • Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award finalists: Reggie Bullock (NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers), Chris Long (retired NFL player), Yadier Molina (MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals) and Sloane Stephens (USTA)
  • Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year finalists: Anaheim Ducks (NHL), Chicago Fire Soccer Club (MLS), Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB), and New York City Football Club (MLS)
  • Corporate Community Impact Award finalists: Anthem Foundation, Burton Snowboards, Finish Line and Brooks Running, and Under Armour
  • Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award honorees: Lina Khalifeh and Tyler Trent (posthumously)

New to the ceremony, additional athletes were honored through the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award, Sports Sustainability Leadership Award and the League Humanitarian Leadership Award. 

Ali’s daughter Laila, a former professional boxer turned TV personality, was in attendance to present the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, an honor that is given to an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a measured positive impact on their community through sports.

“I think it’s great to have this at the show. How can you not have a Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award when you’re talking about athletes giving back?” Laila tells Celeb Secrets on the red carpet prior to the ceremony. “So many athletes were inspired by my father so I think it’s very fitting.”

The candidate embraces the core principles that Muhammad Ali embodied so well, including confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and respect. The winner will be able to direct a $100,000 grant from ESPN to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts. The finalists will be able to direct a $25,000 grant to the charity related to their award-winning efforts.

“What made my father so different was yes, he was an amazing fighter, and yes he’s given back, but he’s a man who stood up for the right thing. He didn’t have an entourage. It wasn’t about his money or about his career, it was about doing what was right and authentic. And most people should be able to do that. But we don’t, so people really appreciate that aspect of him,” she continues.

Other celebrities in attendance included Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN President, Kevin Negandhi, ESPN SportsCenter anchor, Stephanie McMahon, chief brand officer of WWE, Susan Braun, chief brand officer of the V Foundation for Cancer Research, Billie Jean King, former world no.1 professional tennis player and advocate for gender equality, Ian Somerhalder, American actor known for his work in Lost and The Vampire Diaries, David Boreanaz, American actor, television producer and director, Lina Khalifeh, Taekwondo gold medalist and ENSPIRE Award honoree, Jeff Brohm, head football coach at Purdue University
Hannah Storm, ESPN anchor and award-winning journalist, producer and director, Myles Garrett, defensive end for the Cleveland Browns, Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, and more.

You can see more from the 2019 ESPN Sports Humanitarian Awards tonight, July 18th @ 7PM ET on ESPN.

Click through the gallery below to see the stars arrive on the red carpet…

Written by Juliet Schroder

Juliet is the founder and executive producer/host of Celeb Secrets and Celeb Secrets Country. When not reporting on the latest news in pop culture and country music, she enjoys traveling, spending time with friends and family, and exploring the latest fashion trends.

Juliet holds a B.S. in marketing from St. John's University.