Lauren Hill fans outraged over ESPY courage award in favor of 'Caitlyn' Jenner

by Vanessa Rodriguez |

(The Cure Starts Now Foundation/Facebook)Diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma shortly after her 18th birthday, Lauren Hill sought to raise awareness and for the rare disease that eventually totaled more than million. Her journey to do so began when she realized her dream of playing college basketball on an NCAA court and scoring her first gol before a crowd of more than 10,250. Lauren Hill, 19, died on April 10, 2015. Her fans have protested ESPN's EPSY award on her behalf.

LAWRENCEBURG, Ind.(Christian Examiner) -- Surprised by the announcement that ESPN would honor "Caitlyn" Jenner with their Arthur Ashe Courage Award, fans of the late college basketball player Lauren Hill voiced outrage across multiple media channels this week.

Some claimed honoring "Caitlyn," the new female identity of former Olympian Bruce Jenner, is more about politics and ratings than a merit of courage at all.

Others stormed twitter dedicating the hashtag "#LuarenHillESPY" in hopes of seeing her named the recipient over the transgender reality TV star.

One fan @Nick Apisa seemed to summarize the sentiments of many with his tweet: "Very sad to hear that Lauren Hill is not winning this award. What she did this year is the definition of courage."

(Cincyshirts.com)A group of supporters is responding to the ESPY Award controversy with a t-shirt featuring Hill's photo and the words "The Real MVP." Half of the proceeds from the shirts' sales are expected to go to cancer research.

Still, those nearest to Hill said what mattered most was that the 19-year-old who drew national attention as she bravely battled brain cancer raised awareness for her rare disease -- and more than $1 million for pediatric cancer research.

"I never thought that our small town Lauren would make a national platform that's for sure," Hill's mother, Lisa told Cincinnati's WLWT5.

"She was able to touch lives and show everybody her courage and dig deep and play the sport that she loved and make her dreams happen and inspire everybody," the grieving mother said and noted thanks that her daughter was still being remembered.

Hill's Mount St. Joseph University basketball coach, Dan Bejnjamin, said in an interview with WLWT5 that nothing could lessen the beloved player's accomplishments.

" I can only speak on Lauren's behalf and our journey that we went through," Benjamin told the news station. "She's inspired millions and I think that we can't take that away from her."

Although ESPN has never officially named any nominees or finalists of the award, media has widely reported that much of the public assumed front runners for the award to be Hill and the extreme sports competitor and Iraq veteran Noah Galloway. Galloway, who lost a leg and most of one arm while at war, competed in and nearly won this season of "Dancing With the Stars."

Like Hill's fans, his supporters also blasted out hundreds of tweets in outrage of Jenner as the choice for someone "whose contributions transcend sports."

Speaking with a self-proclaimed bias Benjamin noted, "If the award says that it's about transcending the sport, then (Lauren's) done that," "She's transcended, not just women's basketball at the collegiate level but all across the world, every sport. I've gotten numerous emails and phone calls of coaches saying that Lauren's helped them put the focus back on what coaching is all about."

In justifying their selection, ESPN told FOX News that "many people are discussed every year," and that "there is no such thing as a runner-up."

FOX was also reportedly provided a written statement which said Jenner was chosen "to help move forward a constructive dialogue about progress and acceptance."

In the year and half after her diagnosis, Hill spent her days aimed at creating awareness of grossly underfunded pediatric cancer research that had remained stagnant without a champion.

In one of the first interviews, aired about her story, Hill told ESPNW, "I remember being in an appointment and my doctor saying that pediatric brain cancer needed a face. That's been my goal."

Although Hill was not recognized by ESPN, many others honored the Indiana native prior to her April 10 death. Among the many awards Hill received prior to succumbing to DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontene Glioma), was the courage award from legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summit and the Ohio Governor Courage Award.

Hill also received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from her university and was named Chief Motivational Officer for the Cure Starts Now cancer research foundation.

In the same "Never give up" attitude Hill embodied, Hill's fans have not give up on seeing the young hero recognized for the achievements of her short lifetime.

According to Fox News, one group of supporters is responding to the ESPY Award controversy with a t-shirt featuring Hill's photo and the words "The Real MVP" which raise will help money for the research foundation Hill supported, The Cure Starts Now.

Additionally, an online petition  requesting both Hill and Jenner receive the award was launched on change.org. As of June 5, only 1,200 people had signed the petition.

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