Naomi Osaka was selected by The Associated Press as the Female Athlete of the Year, based on her 2020 on-court results and political activism.
The former world No.3 Osaka withdrew from the Western & Southern Open semifinals in protest over Jacob Blake shooting (after lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA she re-entered the tournament which was shut down for a day because of the Japanese’s action) and in each of her seven matches en route to the 2020 US Open title she wore a different facemask to honor victims of police brutality and racial injustice.
Osaka told the AP in an email interview:
[W]atching 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.
The WTA founder Billie Jean King praises Osaka’s tennis achievements and fight for social equality:
She successfully completed the difficult task of taking excellence in sports performance and using that platform to succeed outside of sports on a much bigger stage. She ignited a conversation on social justice, the results of which were bigger than tennis, larger than sports, and in doing so raised the bar for all those who want to leverage the gifts and talents we have to make a difference in our world.