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The 10 most influential sports voices of 2020

What does it mean to be a "super-player activist" in such a complicated year

The 10 most influential sports voices of 2020 What does it mean to be a super-player activist in such a complicated year

In this 2020, battered by problems of all kinds, a new category has emerged among athletes, the "activist super-player" as the New York Times defines them. The "new sports policy" is a very complex concept, but which finds its peak in this difficult year, recalling the times when Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, were not mere athletes but players who fought for something beyond sport. It is increasingly clear that the role of athletes is expanding, with an ever greater centrality within the public debate.


LeBron James

"This is the time for us to finally make a difference" is a phrase that often came out of the mouth of LeBron Raymone James, NBA champion with the Lakers last season. The commitment that LBJ has made after Kobe's death seems to go far beyond the pitch. The "legacy" that wants to leave the favorite son of Ohio - a state that has some political weight in the US - has not only turned into its fourth link but also into the creation of an organization like "More Than a Vote" and in expanding the benefits offered by the “I Promised” school program. The voice he imposed - along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Chris Paul during the boycott of the NBA games in the Orlando bubble - tells you how much James's voice continues to be influential in the sports and non-sports world. More than a player, in the literal sense of the word.


Marcus Rashford

While it is more natural to see a 36-year-old person playing as central a role as LeBron, it is certainly less common to see a 23-year-old on this list with above-average maturity. What Marcus Rashford has done for England and for the most disadvantaged children is incredible and his image - curated in detail by Roc Nation Sports - has emerged much more than strengthened. From the commitment to maintaining the commitment for free school meals during lockdowns to the collaboration with Burberry, a brand that has decided to join the Rashford crusade by integrating its struggle into a more articulated program of humanitarian aid and charitable initiatives. The United striker is the best photo of anyone who does not forget the past.


Naomi Osaka

Sprouted out of nowhere, the half-Japanese and half-Haitian champion is only 22 years old but she is already a force of nature, on and off the court. She was one of the first tennis players to take a strong stand in the protests that we can gather under the name of "Black Lives Matter" and that have involved the whole world. Being the voice and the face of the oppressed at 22 is not easy, but at the US Open Osaka she took the field 7 times with 7 different masks, always with different names of black people killed unjustly. In the first round you had the name of Breonna Taylor, in the second that of Elijan McClain, in the third that of Ahmaud Arbert, in the fourth that of Trayvon Martin; in the quarterfinals of George Floyd, in the semifinals Philando Castile and in the final Tamir Rice. 7 names, 7 victories for one of the emerging sports symbols.


Lewis Hamilton

Describing the 2020 of a champion like Lewis Hamilton can be complicated: the fight against racism, his new habits to protect the environment and the whole study to improve and combat climate change. Bubba Wallace, NASCAR driver sums it up for all: "I'm the only high-level black NASCAR driver. So Lewis's example, as the only black F1 driver, is meaningful to me. It shows we're there because we can. See it. almost every weekend, it motivates me to try to do the same. It's an inspiration for everyone". Hamilton is always among the first to take sides in favor of human rights, gender equality and he is not afraid to go against even his own federation. Not on the sidelines is the work he is doing as a programmer and test driver with Mercedes-Benz to transform the entire German fleet into zero-impact electric cars. Lewis is and will be one of the faces of change.


Héctor Bellerín

In addition to still being undefeated in terms of coolness, Bellerín is one of the main promoters of the change in Arsenal's culture which aims to become the greenest club in the world. His almost obsessive attention to the environment is not new: the project developed with FOKOHAELA in collaboration with the WWF was proof of this last year. The environmental initiatives - from planting 3,000 trees for each Gunners' victory to acquiring significant stakes in Forest Green Rovers FC - are many, as is the desire to convey this message through the podcast More Than a Footballer started during the lockdown. The culture of the club is also changing thanks to him and the inspirations that Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Ozil also find each other.


Claudio Marchisio

Even if we are talking about a former footballer, Claudio Marchisio is not afraid to always take the side of good. His frenetic entrepreneurial activity as a restaurateur is proportional to that of his social networks, where he often explains his thoughts on current events: from the crisis of his new investment sector to revenge porn, passing through many awareness campaigns in which Claudio always puts his face. Great example of how visibility should be leveraged to broaden important messages.


Raheem Sterling

"The only disease right now is the racism we are fighting". Saying this sentence in such a difficult moment tells us so much about the commitment that Sterling is putting in to stem one of the main problems of humanity, not just of sport. Sterling's personal struggle does not begin with the murder of George Floyd but much earlier, given the incidents in which he was personally involved. He was among the most active players in leading the debate among his peers on the BLM campaign and the #TimeForChange is inextricably linked to his image.


Megan Rapinoe

"Megan Rapinoe fearlessly uses her voice to make the world a fairer place. No matter your politics, ethnicity or gender, it's something everyone should be inspired by" Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says of Rapinoe. The OL Reign and USNWT player exchanged views with Donald Trump, fought the powers of the American football federation and always did it in her own way, often inspiring younger colleagues. Sexism and the impartiality of treatment between athletes and athletes are two battles that he has been fighting for some time, together with that of rights for the LGBTQ communities to which he belongs with extreme pride. Besides being a symbol of women's football worldwide, Rapinoe is also a great symbol of change.


Enes Kanter

The events of Enes Kanter are paradoxical. They have traveled around the world and the NBA player's words against Erdogan have had dire consequences over the years: international arrest warrants, arrested family members and limited freedoms to the people Kanter represents. But the center of the Portland Trailblazers has never remained silent, continuing to oppose what it deems "one of the dictators of our age". He did not remain silent and did not moderate his tone even last June, when after 7 years his father was released, imprisoned only for being the father of a dissident. The consistency in the fight against those who oppress the freedom of millions of people is incredible and Kanter deserves a place on this list.


Dwyane Wade

Wade was one of the most important voices in the NBA for 16 years, but once he hung up his boots he didn't lose the habit of using his fame to raise awareness, inform and fight on topics that part of the world still sees as taboo. Along with her Gabrielle Union, Wade is on TIME's list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World and her credit goes to ongoing support campaigns for LGBTQ communities. The couple set a good example as parents responsible for supporting their transgendered daughter Zaya. "Each child will be different in one way or another. Each child will have their own individuality, their own interests and their own identity. He and Gabrielle love Zaya, they celebrate who she is and they hug her. They are redesigning the way parents can defend their children and fight for them, helping them to become the best adult possible" said John Legend in an interview.


Bonus track - Flavio Tranquillo

Among the most important voices could not miss "The Voice" Flavio Traquillo, the voice of NBA basketball. Although for different reasons, the Sky journalist and author of the new book "The sport of tomorrow" by add editore belongs to this category for having strongly and tenaciously reiterated a sacrosanct concept that has escaped in these complex months: sport is a right and therefore must be guaranteed even in extraordinary situations such as those we still live today.