Instead of naming one Athlete of the Year for 2020, Sports Illustrated is recognizing a group of champions who not only excelled in their respective sports, but who also 'rose to the occasion' off the playing surface.

SI chose the 'Athlete Activist' as its Athlete of the Year, bestowing the honor on five athletes who won titles, and were loud voices in the pursuit of racial equality. They are LeBron James, Patrick Mahomes, Breanna Stewart, Naomi Osaka and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

Stewart, a graduate of Cicero-North Syracuse High School, returned from a torn Achilles in 2019 to win her second WNBA Championship, and her second Finals MVP award, in the bubble with her Seattle Storm. Off the court, the 26-year-old was a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and spoke out about the tragic death of Breonna Tayler.

From SI's Megan Rapinoe:

The WNBA players made sure everyone knew that they were playing for Breonna Taylor every time they went on the court this season, that they were playing to say Black Lives Matter. Honestly, I was in awe the whole time I was in the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Fla. The players worked to make sure not only that they had a season but also that everyone watching their season knew: This is your place to support Black women, and women, and equality. Watching Stewie stand in front of everyone before that first game and ask for 26 seconds of silence to remember Breonna Taylor, the Black woman who was that age when she was killed by police in her Louisville apartment, was powerful.

This is just the second time Sports Illustrated has named a group of athletes, not on the same team, as its Athlete of the Year, Yahoo reported.

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