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LeBron James and Naomi Osaka named AP’s athletes of the year

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Los Angeles Laker LeBron James and tennis star Naomi Osaka are The Associated Press’s athletes of the year, the organization announced this weekend.

In votes occurring Saturday and Sunday, the two athletes, who emerged victorious at this year’s NBA championship and U.S. Open, respectively, were recognized not only for their achievements on the court but their political activism. In interviews with the news agency, they discussed how they learned they could have an impact outside the world of professional sports.

“[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 U.S. Open victory, but more so that I got people talking about the real issues,” Osaka told the AP in an email interview.

“I still know what I do on the floor and obviously, I give everything to the game,” James said. “But I can make a greater impact off the floor right now, more than I can on the floor. And I want to continue to inspire people with the way I play the game of basketball. But there’s so many more things that I can do off the floor to help cultivate people, inspire people, bring people together, empower them.”

James was also recognized as the AP’s male athlete of the decade in 2019.

He and Osaka have both expressed support for protests against police brutality and racism in recent months following the deaths of several Black Americans during encounters with police this year.

The Lakers star has been a vocal critic of President Trump, who has repeatedly derided the NBA for its protests against racial inequality during the national anthem. 

“You gotta stand for our flag. You gotta really be great to our flag and do our anthem. And if you don’t do that, we don’t want you,” Trump said at a campaign rally last month as the crowd began chanting “LeBron James sucks.”

Osaka made headlines for wearing face masks bearing the names of Black Americans killed by members of law enforcement at the U.S. Open in September, which she said at the time was to “make people start talking” about police brutality.

Tags Donald Trump Lebron James Naomi Osaka police brutality Police violence racial inequality systemic racism The Associated Press
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