The Laureus World Sports Awards in 2021 will honor Naomi Osaka’s continued excellence.
After winning her second US Open title, the 23-year-old was dubbed Laureus Sportswoman of the Year for 2021, but it wasn’t just her achievements on the court that helped her earn the honor.
Osaka wore a different face mask for each match during her run to grand slam success at Flushing Meadows and during the Black Lives Matter movement, each one featuring the name of a Black survivor of suspected police or racial abuse in the United States.
After seeing so many of her “role models” win the award, Osaka said being able to accept it herself “means a lot.”
“Regarding my activism on the court, I think it is important to use my voice, because for me I feel like I often hold back a lot and worry about what people think of me, but you know if you have a platform it is very important you use it,” she explained.
“Looking ahead, my main hopes for the future would be just to have helped or impacted as many people as I could and, hopefully, be a better person.”
The Laureus Awards, which are usually a glitzy, red carpet affair that has gained the moniker “Oscars of Sport,” were held digitally this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The awards told the “inspirational stories of people who worked tirelessly to combat the pandemic, and highlighted the advocacy of sportsmen and sportswomen who have used their positions of influence to make a powerful impact on issues and conflicts which go beyond sport,” according to a Laureus statement.
Formula One celebrity Lewis Hamilton, like Osaka, used his voice to bring attention to social injustices and racial disparity during the year 2020.
Hamilton was a strong voice against police brutality and racial inequality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, while also equaling Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Formula One world championships.
The Mercedes driver wore a black racing suit with a Black Lives Matter helmet, as well as kneeling before each grand prix and urging his teammates to do the same. As part of the team’s contribution to diversity, his car was painted black.
As a result, Hamilton was given the inaugural Laureus Athlete Advocate of the Year Award for 2021 “for his participation in the battle against racism,” as he shared the Sportsman of the Year Award with Lionel Messi last year.
“This past year has been incredibly difficult for so many, but it has also been heartening to see the power of our collective voices spark new
conversations and change,” Hamilton said.
“The impact of each and every one of you who have stood up, is so inspiring, so I want to thank you. Please keep fighting, keep shining your light. The global rising to address the longstanding issue of systemic racism and inequality in our society has been monumental, but we must continue to fight
“We must all see ourselves as responsible for making positive change in our world, and hold ourselves accountable, so that the promises of last year turn in to action. I truly believe that together, we will get there, and so I stand with you as we push forwards.”