Naomi Osaka, who won a third Grand Slam tennis title while also making a stand off court by protesting against racial injustice and police brutality, has been named by the Associated Press as the Female Athlete of the Year.
After a vote by AP member sports editors and AP writers, Japan’s 23-year-old US Open champion collected 18 of 35 first-place votes and a total of 71 points.
WNBA Finals MVP Breanna Stewart was next with nine first-place votes and 60 points, followed by Sarah Fuller, the Vanderbilt soccer player who kicked for the school’s football team, with one first-place vote and 24 points.
“It was difficult to be isolated from my family for large parts of the year, but that’s nothing compared to others. It was sad to watch and read the news of people suffering from COVID-19, and the economic and social effect on so many – losing jobs, mental health. It was such a tough year for so many people,” Osaka wrote in an email interview.
“And then watching the police injustices like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake (to name just a few) in the summer broke my heart. I am proud of my US Open victory, but more so that I got people talking about the real issues.”
Billie Jean King, a 12-time Grand Slam singles title winner and a pioneering advocate for decades, praised Osaka for positioning “herself as a leader not only in women’s tennis but in all of sports and a force for change in our society.”
LeBron James was announced on Saturday as the AP Male Athlete of the Year.