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ESPY Awards: Peyton Manning Roasts as Host, Michelle Obama Promotes Inclusion

Variety logo Variety 7/13/2017 Rebecca Rubin
© Provided by Variety

Some of biggest names in sports stepped out for the ESPY Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Among the attendees were Kevin Durant, Aaron Rodgers, Simone Biles, and Stephen Curry.

Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning took the stage to host the 25th annual event. He opened the show praising the ESPYs for having a former athlete host for the first time, despite the fact that John Cena emceed last year.

“John Cena is an athlete the same way Ryan Lochte is a reliable witness,” Manning joked of the professional wrestler and actor. “It’s just not an accurate statement.”

The evening was sprinkled with pre-recorded clips of Manning poking fun at himself, including him checking into a retirement home post-NFL retirement and hosting a Super Bowl LI party gone wrong.

Jon Stewart made a rare television appearance to present U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro with the Pat Tillman Award for Service for his perseverance and achievement both in military service and in his athletic endeavors.

“He found a way not just to survive against the odds, but to thrive,” Stewart said during the presentation. “D.T. is a damn miracle.”

Nick Offerman channeled his inner Ron Swanson to give the award for best moment to the Chicago Cubs for defeating the Cleveland Indians, 8-7, in 10 innings to win their first World Series since 1908. Actor Bill Murray accepted the award and celebrated with Offerman, Chicago catcher David Ross, and bottles of champagne.

The icon award was given to legendary retired Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, who holds the record for the longest tenure of any broadcaster with a single pro sports team. “That’s what you should do with a gift — share it,” said Bryan Cranston, who presented the award.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama posthumously honored Eunice Kennedy Shriver with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics, accepted the award on his mother’s behalf.

“Tonight is my mother’s moment, not here physically, but spiritually,” he told Variety on the red carpet. “The world is so fraught with stereotyping and bullying and humiliating and anger and fear. Her whole life is dedicated to transforming fear into acceptance. [Her message] couldn’t be more urgent than it is today.”

Obama praised Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s history of breaking down athletic barriers. “She knew that when we give others the chance to fulfill their greatest potential, we all win,” Obama said in her speech. “Through her passionate service, she made our world more welcoming, inclusive, and fair, not just for the athletes she empowered, but for us all.”

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