Naomi Osaka was one of five activist athletes honored as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year. Osaka, who won the 2020 US Open brought attention to racial injustice and police violence in the US by effectively using her fame and influence in tennis.
Other players selected for the Sportsperson of the year included NBA star Lakers star LeBron James, Seattle Storm player Breanna Stewart and Kansas City Chiefs teammates, Patrick Mahomes and Laurent Duvernay.
Early in her career, Osaka was seen as shy and not being comfortable in the limelight. But at each round of the US Open, she wore a mask bearing a different name of a black victim of police violence – Breonna Taylor. Elijah McClain. Ahmaud Arbery. Trayvon Martin. George Floyd. Philando Castile. Tamir Rice.
Her actions were a buzz on social media, with many trying to predict what name she will be wearing on her mask for the next round. She effectively used social media to bring attention to the issue she passionately cares about.
Prior to the US Open, at the Cincinnati tournament, she led efforts to pause tennis for a day to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake. She almost pulled out of the tournament to highlight the injustice.