NEW YORK — The Williams sisters are fond of fashion shows and designer labels, but they haven’t sewn up the most stylish female athlete award, based on an informal survey of professional athletes and guests at Tuesday’s Great Sports...
NEW YORK — The Williams sisters are fond of fashion shows and designer labels, but they haven’t sewn up the most stylish female athlete award, based on an informal survey of professional athletes and guests at Tuesday’s Great Sports Legends Dinner.
When WWD asked movers and shakers to decide which female athlete has set the bar for style, Dorothy Hamill, Chris Evert, Peggy Fleming and Marion Jones were some of the stars who received mentions at the Waldorf-Astoria affair. Fashion, understandably, was not at the top of people’s minds, given the cause.
The event addressed a medical research breakthrough and raised $2 million for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. National Football League Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti founded the organization, after his son Marc was paralyzed playing football for the Citadel in 1985. The evening’s host, NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, recalled a life-changing visit to a spinal chord injury ward in a Boston hospital.
Despite the evening’s sobering tone, the event honored nine sports legends and two outstanding citizens. Some of those winners sized up their favorite female athletes from seasons past and present. Gloria Estefan, winner of this year’s Humanitarian Award, said, “The Williams sisters are really going to town with their outfits and their bodies, and Dorothy established the whole haircut phenomenon.”
As someone who “didn’t get the fashion gene,” Estefan said, “There are these fabulous women out there doing fabulous things with their bodies,” she said. “I’m more interested in how they push the envelope with their bodies” than how they dress.
“I’m the worst fashionista,” Estefan said. “I don’t like shopping and I hate trying on clothes, but my husband has a good eye.”
Sports legends award recipient David Robinson agreed that Serena Williams’ mode of fashion “is interesting, but she’s got the kind of body where it’s always interesting. I like the way some of the female basketball players dress. Lisa Leslie does a good job.”
When a friend suggested Anna Kournikova, the former National Basketball Association star deferred, “She’s kind of a bumble-gum type of girl.”All in all, there is an appropriate amount of attention paid to female athletes’ appearances, Robinson said.
“They’re not overly exploited,” he said. “You don’t see them on the runway. If a girl is glamorous and wants to be, she gets to go do that. If she is like Martina [Navratilova] and doesn’t want that, she doesn’t have to. They can exploit whatever talent they have. It’s the same for guys.”
Cal Ripken Jr., another honoree, was more hard-pressed and enlisted the help of his Armani-clad wife, Kelly, who said, “You liked that basketball player we were with a few weeks ago. What was her name?”
“I don’t have an answer,” said Ripken, failing to recall the hoopster’s name. “That’s a tough one. I think it’s a trick question, really.”
Even Hamill, who was also a sports legend winner, struggled to come up with a quick response.
“I said you,” Estefan interjected. “You set the haircut for the planet. I got one.”
After hiding her eyes with her hand and shaking her head, Hamill leaned on Estefan and said, “I’m so sorry,” but no apologies were needed. “I looked very cute in it. I did,” Estefan insisted.
Nancy Kerrigan eventually won Hamill’s praise for her “gorgeous” Vera Wang skating dresses. “No one can compete with that kind of costumery and styling,” Hamill said.
Marion Jones, a Nike-sponsored athlete, also earned points with the Stars on Ice star. They bonded during a trip to West Africa last year for an Olympic fund-raising and immunization campaign.
“She made a great impression on me with her poise, graciousness and athletic prowess,” flexing her arm for effect.
Dressed in a Patricia Field strapless black dress, Oksana Baiul cast her ballot for Katarina Witt.
“She’s very ladylike, feminine and very mature, and her dresses were always gorgeous,” Baiul said.
Sports legend Roger Penske quizzed his wife and son before agreeing on Chris Evert. The former tennis star also won praise from Walter Cronkite, the Great American Icon winner. He also gave the thumbs-up to Dorothy Hamill.Cronkite, described by Brokaw as the “most trusted man in America,” said he doesn’t think the media’s coverage of female athletes is too heavy handed.
“All nationals should support their home team,” he said. “It’s part of sports.”
Jim Brown, a sports legends winner, said, “Venus and Serena do a great job. They go to [design] school, dress well, design great athleticwear, but yet they do it with femininity. Some of it is a little outrageous, but some of it is a little cute. They’ve drawn my attention to the women they are.”
Slightly dissatisfied with his answer, Brown added, “Beyoncé, she’s made a great change, but she’s not an athlete.”
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