The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) will host its Annual Salute to women in sports this Wednesday, October 14, at 8pm ET. Unlike previous in-person editions of the event, this year’s virtual celebration will be livestreamed and free to the public.
“Every year I’ve left the Women’s Sports Foundation Annual Salute… I’ve had a list of people that I wish could’ve been there,” Women’s Sports Foundation President Alana Nichols said on Monday. “We’re so excited to welcome a lot of viewers that wouldn’t [otherwise] know the magic of the Annual Salute… I want young girls to be encouraged watching this broadcast. I want them to know that they’re not alone. While COVID may have put a damper on their sports activities right now, we will get through this together.”
The virtual format has also allowed for a wider speaker list. This year’s event, which will be hosted by Laila Ali, will feature guest appearances by Natalie Portman and Tom Brady, as well as the traditional Who’s Who of women’s sports.
“We decided to make lemonade out of the lemons that COVID brought,” Nichols explains. There will even a signature cocktail – the ‘equatini’ – in honor of Women’s Sports Foundation founder Billie Jean King.
The theme of the 2020 Annual Salute – “Speak with Sport” – was chosen to “recognize all the athletes that have stood up and used their voice for justice and equality,” Nichols explains.
Fittingly, this year’s Annual Salute honorees include the “Women of the WNBA,” who will be given the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award for dedicating their season to racial and social justice.
Nichols, a six-time Paralympic medalist, has had an atypical tenure as President of the organization. Her term began on January 1, but since traveling to Washington D.C. for National Girls and Women in Sports Day in February, she’s been working virtually.
“It’s been really inspiring to watch leaders at the Women’s Sports Foundation assess the situation, pivot, decide what we were going to do for the rest of the year, and make a plan,” Nichols explains. As part of its COVID-19 action plan, the Women’s Sports Foundation set up a 1-800 helpline so that any grant recipients (athletes and community partners) could reach out with questions or concerns.
Nichols, the first American woman to win gold medals at both the summer and winter Paralympic Games, has also prioritized helping the next generation of female athletes with disabilities. “One of the greatest responsibilities I’ve had as president is reaching out to that population of girls and women with disabilities and get them involved,” she explains. “I think we’ve had a big impact just having me as the first female president that uses a wheelchair.”