Bethany Hamilton would have been one of the nominees for tonight’s ESPY Awards, but she has taken herself out of the running. Hamilton was nominated for Best Female Athlete with a Disability, but she asked to be removed from the nominee list.
In a letter to the press, ESPN said, “Bethany expressed to ESPN that she was appreciative of the nomination but didn’t feel it was a good fit for her, so ESPN removed her from the category upon her request.”
Hamilton hasn’t given a reason for why she didn’t want to be nominated, but there are a few signs that point to the fact that she doesn’t want to be labeled as an athlete with a disability. In 2004, she won the ESPY for Best Comeback Athlete Award after she survived a shark attack that ended in the loss of her right arm.
That year, Hamilton gladly accepted the award for her comeback, which makes it that much more confusing that she wouldn’t want to win another ESPY. One argument could be that she wants to be more than the shark attack and the word disability.
Hamilton continued to have a successful surfing career and even competed on The Amazing Race with her husband. It’s clear that she lives her life as though she doesn’t have a disability and winning this award could feel like a slight.
But there’s also an argument that she should embrace and empower the word disability to live as an example for other athletes like her. Hamilton has always had a positive attitude and has never let the attack scare her away from living her dream to surf professionally. Millions of people who do have disabilities could use her as an example.
Obviously the choice is up to her on how she would like to be treated and talked about in the athletic community, but the withdraw definitely made a statement. We’ll have to wait and see if she gives an official statement.