Three-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka dominated on the tennis courts in 2020. But off the court, she also became a champion in the fight against racial injustice, and embraced her fame to spark important conversations - making her one of five recipients for Sports Illustrated’s 2020 Sportsperson of the Year award.
Sports Illustrated chose ‘The Athlete Activist’ as their 2020 recipient, honoring top athletes who have “turned athletic fame into a platform for social activism”. The Japanese player was recognized alongside basketball champions LeBron James and Breanna Stewart and American football stars Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Patrick Mahomes.
All were champions in their sport in 2020. All were champions for causes seeking to level society’s greatest inequities.— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 7, 2020
Congratulations to the recipients of the 2020 #Sportsperson of the Year award: @KingJames, @breannastewart, @PatrickMahomes, @naomiosaka and @LaurentDTardif pic.twitter.com/f8w7uUjrSI
Osaka was a vocal advocate in the fight against racial injustice, joining a nationwide athlete-led protest that halted play in New York for a day of reflection before going on to reach the Western & Southern Open final. At the US Open, Osaka revealed that she had brought seven different face masks and intended to wear a new one every match, with each mask honoring a victim of police brutality. To bring awareness to all of the names, she would have to reach the final - a mission Osaka achieved as she claimed her third Grand Slam title.
“At 23, Naomi has become a force on the tennis court, winning the U.S. Open in September for the second time, coming back from a set down to beat Victoria Azarenka,” wrote WTA Legend Martina Navratilova in Osaka’s SI feature.
“But in 2020 she also became a huge force off the court. Naomi came to understand the power of fame and learned how to use it for the greater good. How cool is that? She used her platform to raise awareness of violence against Black Americans by the police and others and to foster the conversation about how to combat it.”
Osaka is the fifth tennis player to be recognized as SI Sportsperson of the Year, and the first since Serena Williams in 2015. Billie Jean King (1972), Chris Evert (1976) and Arthur Ashe (1992) have also been honored.
In 1972, I became the first woman to receive the honor of @SInow’s #Sportsperson of the Year.— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) December 7, 2020
Congratulations to these athlete activists, who not only succeed at the highest level of their games, but also use their platforms to advocate for a more equitable and just world. https://t.co/n2KyuBqFZ5