Serena Williams took home the Jackie Robinson Sports Award at the 2023 NAACP Image Awards on Sunday night (Feb. 25). Actress Kerry Washington presented the honor to her longtime friend for her contributions to the Back community worldwide and high achievement in athletics.
The NAACP selected Williams for the award, recognizing her success on the tennis court and in business, philanthropy, and fashion. The 41-year-old took the stage in her custom Brandon Blackwood velvet gown to accept her award as the Pasadena Civic Auditorium burst into raucous applause.
“I would like to thank the NAACP, which continues to accelerate change within important areas such as healthcare, education, sports, the economy, and much more,” she said to the beautifully Black crowd. “The tireless efforts of your organization are making a big difference in the lives of African Americans today and tomorrow.
“I’d also like to thank the Image Awards and the Hollywood Bureau for honoring me with the Jackie Robinson Award tonight. Still a little incredible for me. I am super humbled. Thank you. I’m incredibly humbled to be amongst the greatest names in today’s culture, celebrating those who promote equity through creative endeavors.”
The Compton, Calif. raised businesswoman spoke to the Black-focused organization’s concerted efforts to uplift Black athletes leading change.
“So with this Jackie Robinson Sports Award, the NAACP is committed to uplifting athletes who actually break stereotypes and push boundaries and directions that move society forward by opening doors for generations and of the upcoming athletes to come,” the G.O.A.T. continued. “Jackie Robinson’s impact goes far beyond sport. His legacy has empowered many African Americans across various industries to dream big, and beyond the boxes so many of us are put in, a key message the NAACP stands for in its work. And that’s what we are here to celebrate tonight.”
Ahead of the celebration, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson spoke about giving the world-renowned athlete the honor.
“Serena Williams is the quintessential example of Black excellence,” Johnson said. “From her record-breaking wins on the tennis court to her business acumen to her philanthropic endeavors, she has set the bar for athletes everywhere. We are proud to honor and celebrate her with this year’s Jackie Robinson Sports Award.”
Previous Jackie Robinson Sports Award recipients include Steph Curry, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Wilma Rudolph, and the Harlem Globetrotters. Watch Serena Williams’ speech above.