Three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who has a program that helps develop youth leaders in urban areas, was one of 13 current and former athletes honored yesterday for their promotion of sportsmanship and ethical conduct in sports.
The awards were presented by the Citizenship Through Sports Alliance, a group of 10 amateur and professional organizations that is trying to emphasize character building among athletes, fans and administrators of sports.
Yesterday's award recipients "make a difference in the world they live in and in the lives of individuals they touch," Daniel Boggan, a senior NCAA vice president who heads the citizenship group, said at the Freedom Forum in Arlington.
In an interview, Joyner-Kersee said she is concerned that "citizenship, sportsmanship and ethical conduct are sometimes taken for granted" as some athletes become recognized because of their "flash."
When she talks to young athletes, she said, "A lot of them want the big dollars. The contract is not enough. They ask, `what do I have to do extra to get the extra money.' It's unfortunate because not everyone is going to be a Michael Jordan. Not everyone is going to win a gold medal. And not every gold medal is going to make a million dollars. But that's what our young people believe."
Joyner-Kersee said more grass-roots programs are needed to help young athletes understand what is needed to be successful away from sports. "We are taught to play ball or run track," she said. "But you have got to be taught the total picture, the big picture. . . . You have to understand the responsibility that goes along with" playing sports.
In addition to Joyner-Kersee, other award winners at yesterday's event included Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Frank Sanders, Carolina Hurricanes center Ron Francis, and two 1999 D.C. high school graduates -- Marco Binion of Woodrow Wilson High and Sheree Riley of the School Without Walls. Binion competed in basketball and track, while Riley played volleyball and softball and ran track.
The NBA champion San Antonio Spurs and point guard Avery Johnson, who did not attend the luncheon, also were honored.