SI’s 2020 Sportsperson of the Year: The Activist Athlete

LeBron James
AP Photo/Mike Ehrmann

Lakers star LeBron James, WNBA’s Breanna Stewart, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tennis champ Naomi Osaka, and former Chiefs lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif were named 2020 Sportspersons of the Year by Sports Illustrated (SI) for being “champions on the field, and champions for others off it.”

James, who SI called “already a contender for GOAT,” and said “there is debate over whether he’s the greatest NBA player ever,” was also given the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award by SI for putting “his considerable energy into inspiring young people to go to the ballot box in the face of voter suppression.”

Lonnie Ali, the wife of the late boxer, told SI:

[James] continues to embody Muhammad’s principles and core beliefs, using his celebrity platform to champion social justice and political causes that uplift all people. … LeBron has actively used Muhammad’s example to guide, inform and inspire him along this path.

Stewart, a forward for the Seattle Storm, “spoke loudly against racism and for women’s equality,” according to SI. “Her support of Black Lives Matter never wavered, from the season’s opening tip to the Storm’s title celebration.”

Super Bowl MVP Mahomes “used his platform as the NFL’s transcendent star to push the league to recognize the Black Lives Matter movement and players’ rights to protest,” according to SI.

SI said that Osaka “embraced her fame and found her voice in the fight against social injustice,” and that Super Bowl champion Duvernay-Tardif “left the NFL to join the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.”

The publication said they will provide more of the athlete’s stories in detail on Monday.

Sports Illustrated has long supported causes that involve social activism.  In July, Valentina Sampaio has become the first transgender model to appear in SI‘s annual Swimsuit Issue. In 2019, SI named soccer star, anthem protester, and President Trump critic Megan Rapinoe as its Sportsperson of the Year.


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