Naomi Osaka named sportsperson of the year

First Asian American woman and just the second Asian to win the honor

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Naomi Osaka sportsperson of the year

It took 66 years, but the first Asian American woman has been named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year.

Tennis star Naomi Osaka this year is sharing the honor with four other greats– Los Angeles Laker Lebron James, Kansas City Chief teammates Patrick Mahomes and Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, and Los Angeles Storm and WNBA star Breanna Stewart.

The five are being honored not only for their athletic achievement, but for bringing attention to social justice issues during a year the nation needed to heal.

Osaka joins two time Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Tiger Woods as the only Asian Americans to win the honor. Woods won it in 1996 and 2001.

In writing about Osaka, tennis legend Martina Navratilova wrote about the introverted Osaka: “This year I’ve seen her find her voice, just as I found mine. Much of what you get asked as an athlete is banal. What’s your favorite TV show? Your favorite music? Even, what’s your favorite color? But here was an opportunity, as Naomi saw it, to use her fame and her voice to address something so much more important than winning a tennis tournament. When you’re as introverted as Naomi is, you’re usually not com­fortable talking about yourself; sometimes it’s better to talk about other people or other issues. And I think that’s what she has discovered.”

Osaka wore the names on seven different face masks of Blacks killed in police gun fire or racist attacks during each round on her way to winning her second US Open.

James organized a group of athletes and entertainers to fight voter suppression following the killing of  Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, according to CBS News. Stewart led the charge in the WNBA to advocate support of Black Lives Matter. Actions by Mahomes are credited with pushing the NFL to admit it was wrong to oppose player protests of racial injustice and police brutality and Duvernay-Tardiff shed his football jersey for hospital scrubs and joined the front lines to battle the pandemic.

Some may see Osaka’s actions as out of character, but at least one person sees it as a sign of growing maturity.

“I’ve seen from Naomi’s tweets and posts that she magnifies the issues she cares about. She’s using that bullhorn—the bullhorn that she never asked for—very wisely,” said Navratilova.

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