Soccer Icon Abby Wambach’s ESPYS Speech Hints at Career After Sports
If you are anything like me, last night you sat on the edge of your seat fighting back the waterworks when it came to some of the speeches delivered at the 2016 ESPYS.
From the moving opening “call to action” from NBA stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, all the way to Craig Sager’s defiant battle against cancer—the speeches did not leave a dry eye at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
While everyone is talking about those two powerful speeches today, there was one speech delivered that likely flew under the radar for some. That speech came from United States soccer legend, Abby Wambach.
Wambach joined NFL and NBA greats, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant, on the stage to receive the “Icon Award” on Wednesday night. All three may have stepped foot on their respective fields and courts for the last time this season, but the impact they left behind and will continue to have is far from over.
For Wambach in particular, it seems like she may have hinted at what her career after sports will entail—and it is something she has been doing off the field throughout her soccer career anyway.
During her acceptance speech, Wambach turned to a cause very near and dear to her heart to bring it to everyone’s attention once again—equal rights and equitable pay for women in sports. Wambach stated, “I wanted people to see who I was underneath the jersey and see me as a person and not just an athlete.” She then went on to discuss her consistent fight throughout her iconic career for equal rights and equitable pay for women in sports and stated, “That is what I’m most proud of.”
While the speech did not exactly say what career she was going to transition to now that her playing days are complete, the focus on her fight for women in sports reminded me of these quotes from December of 2015 that were in a FOX Sports article written by Laura Vecsey of FOX Soccer.
Vecsey stated, “Wambach has declined to say she’ll be the next Billie Jean King. As the holder of 39 Grand Slam tennis titles across singles and doubles, King has become a leader in inclusion in workplace diversity through her Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative. She is the perfect role model for the soccer champion who will leave with 184 goals — or more.”
Further down in the article, there was a quote from Wambach that stood out.
“I am going to change the world and I’m talking to everybody in the possible world that I can get to that can help me to do that. I’m going to do anything I can do, whether that’s being part of FIFA or creating some sort of movement that can actually impart real quality across all lines, in every country, every city, every sector all over the world, that’s what I’m going to do. I have a team of people and I’m strategizing. I’ve got many different people in my circle that I trust and we’re kind of creating this thing. Nothing’s set, nothing solid. We’ll see.”
For an athlete as internationally known and impactful as Wambach to make a statement like that shows she is far from “riding off into the sunset” now that the soccer chapter of her life has come to a close.
I don’t know about you, but it is great to see athlete icons across all sports stepping into the spotlight in an attempt to do something about issues like this all around the world. With tragedies creating a societal divide, our society can certainly use all the help it can get right now—and who better to help start that process than some of the most influential athletes of our lifetimes, like Wambach.