Osaka first female Black athlete to grace cover of this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition

Naomi Osaka
Posted at 2:53 PM, Jul 19, 2021

Reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka is the first Black female athlete to grace the cover of this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.

"There’s no question that Naomi is one of the best athletes in the world, and a cover spot felt obvious," SI Swimsuit editor-in-chief MJ Day said in a statement. "She’s spent her formative years racking up titles and is headed to the Olympics. But we celebrate Naomi for her passion, strength, and power geared towards consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice, and mental health."

The 23-year-old is no stranger to Sports Illustrated. She was named a 2020 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year for speaking out about mental health.

News of Osaka's cover comes after she withdrew from the French Open after was fined $15,000 for not participating in press conferences at the event and threatened more penalties because she did not want to talk to the media

"I'm so proud to be the first Japanese and Haitian woman to grace one of the covers. I feel like that multi-cultural background is present in all of the things that I do. I try to incorporate it in everything, so hopefully, you see that," Osaka said in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. "My memories [of the magazine] kind of involves the people that I grew up admiring, so I remember Tyra Banks's issue, I remember Beyonce's. Just growing up and watching so many incredible women grace this cover, for me, it feels like a dream."

The four-time Grand Slam champion will represent Team Japan in the Tokyo Games later this month.