LOS ANGELES: Laila Ali returns as host of the Sports Humanitarian of the Year awards, which plan to honor her father Muhammad Ali in a tribute she eagerly awaits.
The show yesterday at the Conga Room in downtown Los Angeles features awards for individual, team, league and corporate humanitarians. Ali’s father died in June at age 74 after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. The worldwide tributes were appreciated by his daughter, a former pro boxer herself who retired undefeated. “I’m happy that my father is no longer suffering.
Moving on is sort of a celebration to me. I hope people never forget,” she said recently. “There’s a new generation of kids that maybe haven’t heard. I invite people to learn about him and be inspired by him.” Ali is using the show as a teaching moment for her own kids, 7-year-old Curtis Jr. and 5- year-old Sydney. She is married to former USC and NFL star Curtis Conway.
“They can watch the show and watch all the winners on the stage, so when they see Chris Paul or Brent Burns or Tina Charles, I can say, ‘Look what they do when they’re off the court,’” she said. “They’re never too young to start learning. I learned that through my father, not only him telling me but showing me.” Burns of the San Jose Sharks, Charles of the New York Liberty, Carlos Dunlap of the Cincinnati Bengals and Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers are finalists for sports humanitarian of the year.
“A lot of times you see athletes in the news for things they said or do for negative things, it’s nice to highlight the positive things they’re doing,” Ali said. “There’s so many people out there who are doing good and demonstrating leadership and having a positive impact on their communities.”
The team finalists are the Detroit Pistons, LA Galaxy, San Francisco 49ers and San Francisco Giants. Tennis great Billie Jean King, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the 2015 Missouri football team will be recognized as Stuart Scott Enspire Award winners, named for the late ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor. Net proceeds of the event benefit the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at The V Foundation. ESPN will grant nearly $800,000 to the charities of the nominees and winners. Highlights of the show air July 15 on ESPN. —AP