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28 August 2023

Being Bold: How Tennis Legend Arthur Ashe became a Healthcare Changemaker

Kate Cronin
Chief Brand Officer
Media Center > Blogs > Being Bold > hero

At Moderna, we like to think differently – and this includes showing up in unexpected places not usually associated with healthcare and medicine. This is why, for the second year in a row, we are sponsoring the U.S. Open tennis tournament and using our sponsorship as an opportunity to educate more people on the promise and potential of mRNA to change the future of medicine.

It’s also why we’re proud to announce that as part of our brand activation at the 2023 U.S. Open, we are releasing a video celebrating the legacy and accomplishments of tennis legend Arthur Ashe, a changemaker.

Ashe’s career included an impressive three Grand Slam titles. But it was Ashe himself who said, “I don’t want to be remembered for my tennis accomplishments.” Imagine being a superstar athlete and not wanting to be remembered for it? This is because, like a true changemaker, Ashe found a different purpose through his platform of tennis: advocating for social justice, health equity and inclusion.

To honor Ashe’s ultimate wish, we remember him in our video as someone who changed the idea of what a champion looks like, not just because he was the first Black man to win the U.S. Open in 1968, but because he used this victory to launch a parallel path as an advocate for equity and inclusion for all Blacks and minorities.

In 1970, Ashe used his platform to speak out against apartheid in South Africa, facing arrest during a major protest. Later in his career, it was Ashe’s personal health challenges – first suffering a heart attack and then being diagnosed with AIDS – that drove him to become an advocate for equal access to healthcare. These experiences inspired Ashe to take part in disease awareness campaigns, and to found the Arthur Ashe Endowment for the Defeat of AIDS. Just two months before he died of complications from AIDS, Ashe also founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, to address issues of health equity for urban-dwelling minorities.

Arthur Ashe is a changemaker because he was known well for one thing, but stood for so much more. He didn’t just win at tennis; he changed the future of sports and what it looks like to be a champion.

This is not unlike what we aim to accomplish at Moderna, and why we chose to honor Ashe as part of our latest brand campaign. Beyond making medicines that help people treat and prevent disease; we want to use our platform to change the future of medicine, and how it looks, works, and addresses issues of health equity and inclusion.

This year’s U.S. Open, taking place August 28 through September 10 in Queens, N.Y., is the perfect place to celebrate Ashe, and educate more people on the promise of mRNA. More than 850,000 fans attend the tournament and many more follow it throughout the world; in fact, 40 percent of the U.S. Open’s social followers are located internationally.

Our video on Arthur Ashe will play on ESPN throughout the tournament. As part of our sponsorship, we will host “Moderna Night” at the evening session on Friday, September 8, and light up the stadium with our brand. A shortened version of the video will appear on the Jumbotron in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Moderna night as well. Attendees can also visit the Moderna booth which opened on August 22 for Fan Week and will remain open throughout the tournament.

We are so proud to once again sponsor the biggest U.S. tennis tournament, with international reach and impact, that has generated forever changemakers like Arthur Ashe. These champions continue to inspire all of us to be bold, stand for something bigger than ourselves, and ultimately, be remembered for all our accomplishments.