Mandela named Ashe Award recipient

Former South African president Nelson Mandela will be honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2009 ESPYS on July 19.

The award is given annually to individuals whose contributions transcend sports.

Mandela was chosen for his actions at the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was hosted by South Africa for the first time. After the host national team, the Springboks, won the final, Mandela, presented the William Webb Ellis Cup to South African captain Francois Pienaar. The gesture was considered a major step in the reconciliation of white and black South Africans.

"We're honored that President Mandela accepts The 2009 ESPYS' Arthur Ashe Courage Award," John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president said. "His action at the 1995 Rugby World Cup was an iconic moment in sports history. The image -- of the previously divided nation, now united under South African colors -- shows the importance of sport to society."

The award, which coincides with Mandela Day on July 18, will be accepted on Mandela's behalf by his daughter Zindzi Mandela and grandson Zondwa Mandela.

Additional past recipients of the award include: Jim Valvano (1993), Steve Palermo (1994), Howard Cosell (1995), Loretta Claiborne (1996), Muhammad Ali (1997), Dean Smith (1998), Billie Jean King (1999), Dave Sanders (2000), Olympian Cathy Freeman (2001), Pat and Kevin Tillman (2003), Liberian-born soccer legend George Weah (2004), disabled athletes Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah and Jim MacLaren (2005) and Afghan female athletes (2006).