Gleason to be honored at ESPYS for ALS advocacy

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Former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason has been selected to receive the 2024 Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYS, it was announced Thursday.

The award is given to individuals “whose contributions transcend sports.” Recipients of the award, which was first given in 1993, are intended to reflect the spirit of Arthur Ashe and possess strength, courage and willingness to stand up for their beliefs in the face of adversity.

“Over the past 13 years, I’ve been documenting our journey with ALS. My aim has always been to see if we can discover peace and freedom with a love of Life, in the midst of extreme adversity. Being recognized at The 2024 ESPYS is not just an honor, but a powerful platform to further help and serve others. Thank you, ESPN, for this incredible accolade,” Gleason wrote in a statement posted to Instagram.

Gleason, a standout special teams player for the Saints from 2000 to 2008, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2011.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, eventually robbing a person of the ability to move, talk or breathe. The disease is considered terminal and currently there is no cure.

Gleason, 47, and his wife, Michel, founded the nonprofit organization Team Gleason following his diagnosis. Team Gleason’s mission is to improve life for others living with ALS by providing technology, equipment and support services.

The Steve Gleason Act was passed in 2018 to ensure the availability of life-sustaining communication devices such as eye-tracking technology that allows individuals like Gleason to communicate using only their eyes.

In 2020, Gleason became the first football player to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor awarded to civilians, for advocacy work with ALS.

Gleason, a special teams captain and the Saints’ leader in blocked punts, was most known on the field for his blocked punt against the Atlanta Falcons in the Saints’ first game back after the Superdome reopened in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina. A statue depicting the moment was erected on the Superdome concourse in 2014.

A documentary about Gleason’s life titled “Gleason” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016. His memoir, “A Life Impossible,” which was co-written with Jeff Duncan, was released in April.

It was also announced Thursday that University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley will receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance and Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, will receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service.

The 2024 ESPYS, hosted by Serena Williams, will air live Thursday, July 11, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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