Russell Wilson Tapped To Host Remote ESPYs Ceremony Alongside Sue Bird And Megan Rapinoe; Event Will Have A “Changed Focus” Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Last week, BET announced it was going virtual for this year’s awards show to practice social distancing and ensure that everyone’s health remains the number one priority amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, ABC is taking the same route with this year’s ESPY awards, set to air on June 21, on ESPN.

Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks has been chosen to host the 28th iteration of the event, along with lovebirds soccer star Megan Rapinoe and her girlfriend Sue Bird, three-time WNBA champion.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, pop sensation Ciara is “likely” to make an appearance during the ceremony, being that she’s married to Wilson. The two have notably attended the show together the past few years and always present an award together.

The dynamic trio, whom all live in Seattle, will take part in what is being called a

“changed focus” for the big night, which honors athletic achievements during the year preceding the ceremony.

Being that this is the first time three people are hosting the ceremony, the show is already different than the rest.

“We liked the idea of having athletes from diverse sports that represent something for every fan,” Jeff Smith, producer for the ESPY’s said in a phone interview. “We’re finding ways to make this feel really connected to the audience. They’re so ready to reach out to this community.”

This year will see a change in routine segments during the annual ceremony, to acknowledge the effects of COVID-19.

The outlet reports that “heroism” and “humanitarian aid” will be a celebratory focus during the event.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

This will also be the first show without long-time executive producer Maura Mandt who passed unexpectedly on Feb 28, aged 53.

“I wish we could have done this show together because she would have a really interesting perspective on how we’re doing this,” Smith shared in regard to his former colleague. “This is the first one of its kind. Maura’s signature will always be on this show.”

With a virtual ceremony, things will be completely different, and no one knows what to expect. There won’t be a red carpet, long-drawn-out acceptance speeches, or the initial shocked reactions when a winner is announced.

However, the producers of the award ceremony hope to keep the suspense going by figuring out a way to call the winners, informing them of their new accolade at the same time as viewers at home.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

“We really love this sort of pure reaction,” Smith continued. “We found ways to really be able to capture it. … We’re finding access to athletes and celebrities that, in some way, will surprise the audience.”

As far as performances go, music and comedic-monologues will still be incorporated into the ceremony.

In a statement, Rob King, ESPN Senior Vice President and editor at large, also spoke on the event and what it could mean to the sports-world in the future.

“On this side of the pandemic, it’s hard to really care about that,” King said regarding there not being much room for jokes aimed at the athletes for the biggest viral moments of the year in the sports world. “In the not-too-distant future after the show airs, we’ll see a return to live sports that will drive a sense of hope. … We hope to have this show be really reflective of that.”

The coronavirus spread worldwide in mid-March, forcing there to be a halt in production for this year’s ceremony. However, everyone involved in putting the show’s magic together has made the best of an unfortunate and unprepared situation.

“Typically, we are all shoulder to shoulder and looking through cuts and arguing through story ideas,” Smith said. “We found a different way to connect with each other.”

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