COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. – The United States Olympic Committee today announced that the second annual Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award will be presented to Olympic track champion Allyson Felix at the 2017 Team USA Awards presented by Dow, Best of the Year, taking place Nov. 29 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The annual award recognizes an individual(s) who has served as a powerful force for good in society, inspiring others by contributing to a better world, uniting people or leading a cause.
The Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award was created in collaboration with the Owens family on the 80th anniversary of Owens’ record-breaking performances at the 1936 Olympic Games. In Berlin, Owens was considered the most successful athlete at the Games, winning four gold medals and setting three world records. He is credited with defeating Adolf Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy by showcasing what makes a true champion: excellence and character. Throughout his life, he continued to use the power of sport to inspire youth and change the world. The award looks to celebrate Owens’ spirit and legacy, and to recognize their presence in others.
That same spirit shines brightly in Felix, the most decorated female track and field athlete in history, with six Olympic gold medals, nine total Olympic medals, and 16 career IAAF World Championship medals. But beyond her record-breaking accomplishments on the track, she has embodied the same Olympic spirit as Owens through her compassion, her integrity, and her commitment to serving the community.
“Allyson epitomizes the character of a champion, both on and off the field of play,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “Her long list of charitable causes and her incredible altruism underscore her commitment to giving back to underserved communities and her passion for inspiring youth to live active, healthy lives. She embraces every opportunity to be a role model and to share the positive impact of sport. She truly lives the Olympic ideals each and every day.”
As a teen, Felix wanted to be a schoolteacher, and received her college degree in education from the University of Southern California. She since has channeled that passion into countless community outreach efforts that have focused largely on inspiring youth and sharing the power of sport to transform lives. Her long list of charities shows a dedication to empowering youth, advancing education and reaching out to those in need through goodwill humanitarian missions.
Since 2011, Felix has been heavily involved with Right to Play, a global organization that uses the transformative power of play to educate and empower children facing adversity, while driving social change in their communities. The organization reaches 1 million children each week, mostly in refugee camps. Felix has gone on three field trips as an athlete ambassador for the organization, to Lebanon, Uganda and Palestinian territories, and was recently elected to the organization’s board of directors. She’s also heavily involved with the Special Olympics, and recently traveled to Abu Dhabi in advance of the 2019 World Games to hold clinics with athletes and speak at local schools about the importance of living an active lifestyle.
“I’m so honored to receive the Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award and to be connected with such a legendary man who spread his powerful, enduring spirit throughout the world, both through sport and through the positive legacy he left behind,” Felix said. “I believe with my whole heart in the power of sport to transform lives, and to give youth around the world a sense of hope and empowerment and purpose. I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet so many inspiring young people and to see their eyes light up when given access and opportunity to sport and play. Throughout my life, I hope to continue advocating for and working with kids, and to leave our world a little better for future generations.”
Felix served on President Barack Obama’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and was active with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Active Schools program. For 10 years, she was an ambassador for USA Track & Field’s Win with Integrity, for which she visited middle schools to speak with children about making positive life decisions, and she’s currently active in RunJumpThrow, the organization’s youth activity program that gets kids excited about the concepts of physical activity and movement.
As a member of the LA 2028 Athletes’ Advisory Council, she’s been closely involved with bringing the Olympic Summer Games back to Los Angeles and the United States for the first time in more than 30 years. Her efforts included presenting at the IOC Session in Lima, Peru, where she shared with the international community what Los Angeles can do for the Olympics, and what the Olympics can do for LA, especially exposing millions of young people to the power and energy of the Olympic Movement.
Among Felix’s many other causes and charities are the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the Women’s Sports Foundation, international Sports Envoy diplomacy with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s Project Believe and the Aspen Institute Project Play initiative.
At the 2016 Team USA Awards, the inaugural Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award was presented by Owens’ granddaughter Marlene Dortch posthumously to Muhammad Ali, whose wife, Lonnie, accepted the award on his behalf and made an inspiring speech for the 600 athletes in attendance.
The 2017 Team USA Awards will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles. Nearly 50 Team USA athletes, VIPs and celebrities will join singer, actor and television host Mark McGrath alongside hundreds of attendees to honor and celebrate the most outstanding U.S. performances from throughout the year, including Female, Male and Teams of the Year.
Felix will be available for interviews on the red carpet, and will make an acceptance speech during the awards show. The Team USA Awards will air Dec. 23 on NBC at 5 p.m. ET.