Tennis superstar Serena Williams received the Jackie Robinson Sports Award, and Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner was recognized at Saturday’s NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, California.
Williams, winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, was honored for “high achievement in athletics along with their pursuit of social justice, civil rights and community involvement.” Williams has extensive involvement in philanthropy and a venture capital fund that promotes diversity-led businesses.
Previous winners of the award, named after the legend who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, include NBA stars Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Magic Johnson, as well as the Harlem Globetrotters and sprinter Wilma Rudolph.
“I’m incredibly humbled to be amongst some of the greatest names in today’s culture, celebrating those who promote equity through creative endeavors,” Williams, 41, said upon receiving the honor. “Together, we are a team of trailblazers, and we represent what is possible, when you truly believe in yourself, and your potential, and follow your life and passion.”
Griner was recognized by awards show host Queen Latifah and made an appearance on stage with her wife, Cherelle. Griner was imprisoned in Russia from February to December 2022 after a small amount of cannabis oil was found in vape cartridges she brought into the country, where she was playing basketball. Griner was freed in a prisoner exchange in December.
“I want to thank everyone,” Griner told the audience. “Let’s fight to bring home every American detained overseas.”
Griner, 32, missed the 2022 WNBA season, but she will return for 2023. She signed a one-year deal last week to return to the Mercury, who drafted her No. 1 in 2013. The WNBA season will commence May 19.