t Women's Sports Foundation

Photo by Getty Images

21st Century Fox and FOX Sports support Women's Sports Foundation at annual gala celebrating female athletes

FOX Sports continued its longstanding support of the Women's Sports Foundation on October 19 when the network served as co-presenting sponsor of the 37th Annual Salute to Women in Sports, an event celebrating the country's top female athletes and their role in encouraging young women around the country to pursue their own athletic dreams. This was the third consecutive year that FOX Sports has sponsored this event. In addition, FOX Sports parent company 21st Century Fox announced a new partnership with the organization in September to celebrate the premiere of FOX's baseball drama Pitch, creating new opportunities for young female athletes to take their athletic achievements to new heights.

The star-studded event, hosted by sports announcer Mary Carillo and two-time Olympic softball medalist Jessica Mendoza, brought together women from across the world of sports for a series of awards, including the prestigious Sportswoman of the Year awards, which were presented to Rio 2016 Olympians Claressa Shields and Ashleigh Johnson in the individual and team categories, respectively.

"For over 40 years, we have recognized the accomplishments of the world's greatest female athletes and leaders in sports. We are proud to do so again tonight after what was one of the most successful Olympic and Paralympic Games for women in history," said sports icon Billie Jean King, who founded the organization in 1974. "The Women's Sports Foundation is proud to have played a small part in what we saw this year in Rio and we plan to continue working to bring women sports to the next level for years to come."

The foundation conducts research into the physical and emotional benefits for girls who participate in athletics and works directly with leagues, schools, and nonprofits on the local level that are trying to get and keep girls in the game. The organization has developed a sports education curriculum for schools, offers professional development for coaches and teachers, and provides aspiring female champions the financial support they need through its Travel & Training Fund.

However, its primary focus is grant-making programs such as the Sports 4 Life initiative, which supports schools, parks and recreation departments, nonprofits, or amateur sports leagues that encourage the participation and retention of African-American and Hispanic girls ages 11-18 in youth sports programs. This year's Salute to Women in Sports raised funds exclusively for the Sports 4 Life program, which has awarded $194,250 in funding to 40 organizations this year alone, serving more than 10,000 middle and high school girls across the country.

In September, 21CF announced a new initiative to support the Sports 4 Life program in honor of FOX's new series Pitch, which tells the story of the fictional first female player in major league baseball. The partnership will help female athletes break barriers in their communities and reflects the role that inspirational stories play in providing the motivation and encouragement necessary for young athletes to succeed.

Learn more about the Women's Sports Foundation, and check out the video below about the organization's partnership with 21CF: