Black athletes and celebs weigh in on representation at the Sports Illustrated Awards

EXCLUSIVE: 2 Chainz, Udonis Haslem, Cari Champion, and more spoke with TheGrio on the red carpet at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida on Dec. 7

Representation matters and Black excellence truly represented at this year’s Sports Illustrated Awards (The SI Awards) presented by Pepsi Stronger Together, hosted by DJ Khaled and Cari Champion, with musical performances by 2Chainz and DJ IRIE.

As tennis star Sloane Stephens tells theGrio, “I had amazing role models like Venus and Serena [Williams] to look up to, plus Chanda Rubin, Zina Garrison, and Lori McNeil. So many amazing players, and I think it’s amazing and incredible now that we have Naomi [Osaka] and Coco [Gauff] and a slew of girls that are just so incredible and amazing.”

Cari Champion Sports Illustrated
Cari Champion speaks onstage during The 2021 Sports Illustrated Awards at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel

But Muhammad Ali Legacy Award recipient, tennis legend Billie Jean King, recalls a time when that wasn’t always the case.

“I had this epiphany at the Los Angeles Tennis Club,” she shares,  “and I just realized everyone wore white shoes, white clothes, white socks, played with white balls, everybody who played was white. And I asked myself, ‘Where is everybody else?’ And from that moment on I just made a commitment to fight for equality and inclusion the rest of my life.”

Hometown Hero Award recipient, Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem, was honored with the work he does promoting mentorship because “I understand what it takes to be successful,” he tells theGrio. The 41-year-old is in his 19th season and is the oldest player in the NBA.

“They say it takes a village, and that’s really true. I think coming from adverse circumstances, nobody can do it alone. And I’m here to be an example of that to younger kids.”

Udonis Haslem Sports Illustrated
Udonis Haslem accepts the award for Home Town Hero during The 2021 Sports Illustrated Awards at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel

If anyone can be a greater example for kids, it’s another kid. This past July, little Black girls and boys nationwide watched 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde make history as the first African-American Scripps National Spelling Bee champ, and now she’s been crowned Sports Illustrated‘s 2021 Sportskid of the year.

While showing off her math expertise on the red carpet, she urges anyone else interested in learning new skills to “just go for it. What’s the worst that can happen?”

You can watch the replay of the awards show live stream HERE.

Have you subscribed to the Grio podcasts, Dear Culture or Acting Up? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!