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Sports Illustrated Selects “Sportsperson of the Year” Honorees

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By Fred Cromartie, Ed.D. |

Through its Sportsperson of the Year Award, Sports Illustrated sought to recognize those who the magazine deemed to be “The Athlete Activist.”

The magazine chose this path for its annual award after a tumultuous 2020, with mass demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, the havoc wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a deeply divided presidential campaign. As such, politics and sport were solidified and bonded because demonstrations erupted and athletes stepped up and went out into the streets denouncing what happened, speaking up for their right to speak up and out and encouraging people to register and vote.

As stated by the SI editors “Our Sportsperson of the Year award goes to five men and women who in 2020 were champions in every sense of the word: champions on the field, champions for others off it.”  SI editors selected included Kansas City superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who pressured the NFL to recognize the right of players to protest for Black lives; Breanna Stewart of the WNBA, who spoke out against bigotry while leading her Seattle Storm team to a title; LeBron James for leading voter registration drives; Naomi Osaka, the tennis star who elevated her game while elevating the names of people killed by police; and Chiefs lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who won a Super Bowl and then “left the NFL to join the front lines of the battle against Covid-19.”

I will leave it to you the reader to debate the merits of those who were selected on even if you would have selected them or others.  Make no mistake about it, the athletes mentioned as well as others will continue to step up and speak out due to the violence that has brought about their resistances. 

Dr. Cromartie is the Director of Doctoral Studies at the United States Sports Academy.

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