Tennis superstar Serena Williams and Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner were among the honorees at the 2023 NAACP Image Awards held in Pasadena, California on Saturday. Williams, who has won an impressive 23 Grand Slam singles titles, received the Jackie Robinson Sports Award for her “high achievement in athletics along with their pursuit of social justice, civil rights and community involvement.”
The award, named after the legend who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, has previously been won by NBA stars Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Magic Johnson, as well as the Harlem Globetrotters and sprinter Wilma Rudolph.
Williams, who is also involved in philanthropy and a venture capital fund that promotes diversity-led businesses, expressed her gratitude upon receiving the honor, saying, “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.”
Meanwhile, 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 while playing basketball. She 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, who missed the 2022 WNBA season, will return to the Mercury for the 2023 season. The 32-year-old signed a one-year deal last week with the team that drafted her No. 1 in 2013. The WNBA season will commence on May 19.