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(Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Women's Sports Foundation)

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Maya Moore, US Women’s Hockey Team among honorees at the Women’s Sports Foundation 38th Annual Salute to Women in Sports

The Women’s Sports Foundation held its 38th Annual Salute to Women in Sports on Wednesday in New York City. Double G Sports caught up with some of the honorees and local women in sports on the red carpet.

The honorees

Each year, WSF taps two individuals for the Sportswoman of the Year award; one from an individual sport and one from a team sport. 14-time World Championships gold medalist and 14-time USA Swimming national champion Katie Ledecky won in the individual category.

Four-time WNBA champion and two-time Olympic medalist Maya Moore won in the team sport category.

“Right out of college I was invited to participate in one of the galas,” Moore told Double G Sports on the red carpet. “Right off the bat I was able to experience this organization and the people that comprise it … I’m glad I’m able to be available – I’m not overseas currently – to celebrate again, the work that the foundation does.”

We also caught up with members of the U.S Women’s Ice Hockey team – Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker and Meghan Duggan – on-hand to accept the 2017 Wilma Rudolph Courage Award. The women’s team re-imagined the 2017 International Women’s Day #BeBoldforChange hashtag in response to dissatisfactory negotiations with USA Hockey leading up to the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championships.

Winner of the Sportswoman of the Year in a team sport, Maya Moore, and Billie Jean King attend The Women’s Sports Foundation’s 38th Annual Salute To Women in Sports Awards Gala on October 18, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Women’s Sports Foundation)

“It’s a huge honor,” said Knight. “We’re honored to be here and to be accepting the award … we never gave up and we stuck together,” added Decker.

Duggan added, “We support the women’s sports foundation and everything that they do … to be here and have our team be honored is incredible.”

The three women constantly mentioned their teammates back in Tampa, and even had a nice red carpet surprise for the cameras. Safe to say the ice hockey team is united on and off the ice ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“I congratulate the ice hockey team…they asked for what they wanted and needed and they got a ‘yes,'” Billie Jean King said before yesterday’s program. “That’s another step up the ladder and another step forward for all of us and more examples like that … the national team, encourages us to stand up an be counted and ask for what we want and need.”

Here is the full list of honorees at the 2017 Annual Salute to Women in Sports:

  • Team Sportswoman of the Year: Maya Moore, Basketball, USA
  • Individual Sportswoman of the Year: Katie Ledecky, Swimming, USA
  • Billie Jean King Leadership Award: Condoleezza Rice, PhD
  • Wilma Rudolph Courage Award: The 2017 United States Women’s National Hockey Team

Local attendees

In addition to the honorees, Double G Sports caught up with some local athletes gracing the red carpet. 2016 gold medal gymnast Laurie Hernandez was excited to attend her first Salute to Women in Sports Gala.

“(The event) is incredible because it really brings women in sports and women who are athletes all together,” said the New Jersey-native.

Colette Smith, former player with the New York Sharks, discussed how WSF encourages her.

“It’s a sorority … of females in sports,” shared Smith, who became the first female coach for the New York Jets this season. “That was a great accomplishment for me, to have an NFL franchise club take a woman seriously … and to be welcomed into their group.”

While Smith was the first with the Jets, she was not the first female coach or referee in the NFL overall. Smith is happy to add to the legacy of inclusion of women in football, and hopes more will follow.

“There are a lot of women out here that know their football … Jen Welter was the first coach with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015, and we’re taking her lead and we’re following in her footsteps and we’re gonna make this happen. The NFL is starting to take (women) more seriously. They know we’re here!”

Today, Smith is focused on her new non-profit organization Believe ‘N You, focused on speaking with children in school and the greater community.

“I created (the organization) … to speak with children about them pursuing their dreams,” Smith told Double G Sports in a follow-up conversation. She aims to encourage children, and to see difficulties as strengths.

The Women’s Sports Foundation has a similar mission that is realized through research and advocacy.

Gymnast Laurie Hernandez attends The Women’s Sports Foundation’s 38th Annual Salute To Women in Sports Awards Gala on October 18, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Women’s Sports Foundation)

Words from Billie Jean King

After 38 years of the Salute to Women in Sports, we wanted to hear from the #GOAT of women’s sports, Billie Jean King. When asked what stands out the most over the duration of the event, King reflected on the growth of participation in sports for girls and women over the years.

“Well it used to be one out of three girls (participated) in sports and more than 2.5 (million) girls and women (participate) in sports. We’ve helped protect Title IX,” shared King.

The legendary tennis player and women’s rights activist proudly mentioned the data and research component of the foundation. “Research is vital. You need data, you need facts, you don’t need feelings. You’ve gotta be clearer and (data) helps give you direct on how to help the girls and women in sports.”

Through research and data, WSF is committed to improving access and participation to sports for girls and women.  “Our job is to get more girls into sports because we know it helps them in life -in everything.”

“We have a long way to go, but I think we’ve been very vital to giving attention to girls in sports and women in sports,” reflected King.

Nevertheless, she is proud of how much the organization has accomplished with humble beginnings. “The Women’s Sports Foundation started with a $5,000 check and we’ve now given away I think around $80 million to grassroots organizations to help girls to be in sports, and also help with their education.”

Now, with the support of people like co-hosts Julie Foudy and Jessica Mendoza, as well as other supporters of women in sports, the sky is the limit to what Billie jean King and the Women’s Sports Foundation can accomplish.

Erica L. Ayala

Erica is the Sky Blue FC Beat Writer in addition to providing overall coverage of Women's Sports.
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