2021 Sportswoman of the Year – Team Award Recipient

Jordan Larson

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When the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team won their first Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games, Jordan Larson was the one to score the winning point. When her kill made contact with the court, Larson collapsed to the floor in pure joy and was embraced by her teammates. Larson, who has been team captain since 2017, had finally achieved her dream of being an Olympic gold medalist. The U.S. women swept Brazil, who had never lost an Olympic final before, 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-14). Larson’s incredible performance, including being named both Olympic Most Valuable Player and best outside hitter of this historic team, is why she is this year’s WSF Team Sportswoman of the Year Award winner. 

Larson is one of the premier all-around players in her sport. She has an exceptionally high IQ on the court which has easily earned the respect of teammates and competitors alike. The past year has been especially momentous for Larson, adding gold medals and championship titles to her impressive list of accolades. With the inaugural season of the Athlete Unlimited volleyball league in February of 2021, Larson was finally able to play professionally in the United States for the first time. Larson was not only the first player to sign with the new league, she was the inaugural season’s champion after earning 4,569 points over the five-week-long season. In June, Larson won her first gold medal of the year in the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League finals. The U.S. women’s team beat the Brazilian squad 3-1 (26–28, 25–23, 25–23, 25–21) to claim the gold. And just a few months earlier, in 2020, Larson became one of the youngest members to be inducted into the University of Nebraska Hall of Fame. While she was a Husker, Larson won a national championship in 2006, and in 2008 she became the first woman in Big 12 history to be named the league’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. 

Now a three-time Olympian, winning silver and bronze medals in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, Larson has played professionally in Puerto Rico, Russia, Turkey, China and the United States. To sustain her on this inspiring journey, she treasures every challenge along the way and proudly wears the “Play For Kae” tattoo on her left wrist in memory of her mom, who lost her fight to breast cancer in 2009. 

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2021 Sportswoman of the Year Award – Individual Recipient

Allyson Felix

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World record holder, 11-time Olympic medalist, 18-time World Championship medalist over the course of her two-decades-long career, a historic performance at the 2020 Tokyo Games. Allyson Felix is a powerhouse, and this year’s WSF Individual Sportswoman of the Year Award winner.

In Tokyo, Felix earned a bronze medal in the 400-meter race — her first Olympic event since giving birth to her daughter, Camryn, in 2018 — breaking her own 400-meter W 35 (women athletes between the ages of 35–39) masters athletic record in the process. She followed up that strong performance by helping the U.S. women’s 4×400-meter relay team win the gold medal the following day with the fifth-fastest time in the event’s history. Since she stated prior to the 2020 Olympic Games her intention to retire before the 2024 Games, winning gold in her final Olympic race was especially meaningful for Felix, as it moved her ahead of Carl Lewis to become the most decorated American track & field Olympian in history.

At this stage of her career, Felix also has found passions off the track, which she believes are her true calling. She is driven by all of her experiences — as athlete, mom and social justice advocate — to use her voice to create change for mom-athletes and all women who are striving to successfully combine their professional careers and motherhood. Earlier this year she launched her own footwear company, Saysh, designed for and by women, which she wore during her historic Tokyo performance. Through her advocacy and increasing awareness of the challenges mom-athletes face in sport, Felix helped inspire the Power of She: Child Care Grant, a new program launched in partnership with Athleta and the Women’s Sports Foundation to help support mom-athletes and allow them to compete without barriers. Additionally, Felix serves on the board of Right To Play, raising awareness for underserved children in developing regions, as well as &Mother, which envisions “a culture where motherhood is not a limiting factor in how women succeed professionally or personally.” 

Having accomplished so much through sport, Felix says that her true, greatest achievement and greatest love is her daughter, who reminds her every day that she can never stop fighting for what is right in this world. She continues to strive for greatness in all areas, demonstrating that we all can achieve things we have never even dreamed of.

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2021 Champion For Equality Award Recipient

Larry Scott

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Throughout his career, Larry Scott has been a bold, innovative leader with a vision for transformative change. From fighting for equal prize money at Wimbledon to creating the Pac-12 Networks, which exponentially grew the broadcast of collegiate women’s sports, and co-creating a fund designed to recruit and retain more women in collegiate coaching — these achievements and more propelled Larry Scott to be named our 2021 Champion for Equality Award recipient.

In his most recent role as Pac-12 Commissioner, Scott orchestrated an unprecedented revitalization of the conference, including but not limited to: transforming both its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments into must-attend events; creating Pac-12 Networks, the first integrated media company owned by a collegiate conference, and one that dramatically increased exposure for women’s and Olympic sports. Scott also was the impetus for the WSF to honor the remarkable career of Stanford Women’s Basketball Coach, Tara VanDerveer. In partnership with the WSF, he established the Tara VanDerveer Fund for the Advancement of Women in Coaching, specifically designed to help build the pipeline of women coaches – a critical need, given the paucity of women in collegiate coaching positions. 

Prior to joining the Pac-12, Scott served for six years as Chairman and CEO of the Sony Ericsson Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour, where he helped generate unprecedented growth and popularity for women’s professional tennis on a global scale. Scott worked with WSF Founder Billie Jean King and others to achieve the long-sought goal of equal prize money for women in tennis’ grand slam events. He also became the architect of the largest-ever sponsorship in both women’s sports and professional tennis, a six-year $88-million title sponsorship agreement with Sony Ericsson. His many other WTA achievements include the largest television deal in women’s tennis history, a reform package that led to a 40 percent increase in prize money and $750 million in facilities investments, and a partnership with UNESCO to support gender equity around the world.

Larry Scott has been a finalist for the Sports Executive of the Year Award given by Sports Business Journal and was awarded the Vision Award by Cynopsis Sports. He was also honored with the Americanism Award by the Anti-Defamation League, in tribute to his mission of fostering positive change through sports, and where he currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors.

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2021 Wilma Rudolph Courage Award Recipient

Naomi Osaka

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Tennis pro, trendsetter, activist, mental health advocate, and history maker, are just a few monikers that describe our 2021 Wilma Rudolph Courage Award recipient, Naomi Osaka.  

Since breaking into the professional tennis circuit with her powerful serve and strong forehand in 2013, Osaka has become a four-time Grand Slam champion – winning both the US Open and the Australian Open twice. Osaka is the first Asian player to hold the WTA world number one ranking in singles, and the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam. Representing her native country of Japan, Osaka was bestowed the prestigious honor of lighting the Cauldron at the opening ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Osaka has become known as a voice in activism on and off the court. She ceaselessly uses her platform and her voice to advocate for social change, gender equity in sport, and mental health. During last year’s Western and Southern Open she withdrew from playing, helping to raise awareness for the tragic deaths of Jacob Blake, Tamir Rice and many other Black men and women. Her powerful message on social media resulted in the tournament pausing play for 24 hours: “Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. And as a black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis.” 

Three days later, Osaka walked into Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing a black face covering. It bore the name Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was fatally shot by police. Over the course of the US Open, Osaka wore a different mask for each of her seven victories. Each mask commemorating a Black person who was a victim of violence. Osaka emerged as the champion of the US Open, lifting the trophy to honor Black lives and making a bold statement against racism and inequality.

Earlier this year, Osaka took a stand for her own mental well-being and in so doing, brought world-wide attention to the topic of mental health and the challenges elite athletes face. Expectations, constant demand, the weight of perfectionism, can all spur anxiety. Heralded by the fans as you rise, yet the cheers can turn in a moment, when you falter. The courage to put her mental well-being first, Osaka received accolades from health-care professionals, appreciation from fellow athletes across sports, and she spurred the general public to stop and think about mental health. Courage and character beyond her 23 years. 

Pursuing passion and achievements off the court as well, Osaka made her debut at New York Fashion Week in 2020, showcasing a collection she co-designed with Adeam, and just recently served as co-host of the 2021 MET Gala. Osaka is also an entrepreneur, recently launching a skincare brand named KINLO, in homage to her bicultural heritage (Kin and Lo meaning ‘gold’ in Japanese and Haitian Creole, respectively.) 

Osaka is a three-time member of Time’s annual list of the100 most influential people in the world, and was named one of the 2020 Sports Illustrated Sportspersons of the Year, an Ad Week Most Powerful Woman in Sports. 

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2021 Billie Jean King Leadership Award Recipient

Kim Ng

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Each year the Billie Jean King Leadership award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and made significant contributions to the advancement of women through achievements in sports and the workplace. This year we honor Kim Ng, the Miami Marlins General Manager, for her excellence, persistence and commitment to breaking down barriers in sports. 

Ng joined the Marlins organization in November 2020, becoming the fifth person in club history to hold the top position in baseball operations. She is the highest-ranking woman in baseball operations among the 30 MLB teams, the highest-ranking Asian-American female baseball executive, and the first woman hired to the general manager position by any of the professional men’s sports teams in the North American major leagues.

A recognized trailblazer, Ng has more than 30 years in Major League Baseball, including a combined 21 years of experience in the front offices for the Chicago White Sox (1990-96), New York Yankees (1998- 2001), and Los Angeles Dodgers (2002-11). She has been an integral part of eight postseason appearances, including six league championship series and three World Championships (all with the Yankees, 1998-2000). Prior to the Marlins, Ng spent nine years as Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations with MLB, where she directed international baseball operations, working with the front offices of the 30 major league clubs and many other baseball leagues and entities around the world. Ng also focused her efforts on growing the game of baseball, leading MLB’s efforts to improve the quality of play, caliber of talent, and rate of participation for amateur baseball around the world while also supervising MLB playing initiatives for girls and women. Additionally, she served on MLB’s Diversity Pipeline Advisory Committee.

Ng has appeared on Forbes’ list of the Most Influential Minorities in Sports, Forbes’ list of the Most Influential Women in Sports, and Adweek’s Most Powerful Women in Sports. Most recently, she was named one of InStyle Magazine’s Badass 50 Women, and was included among the South Florida Business Journal’s Power Leaders. Ng serves on the Anti-Defamation League’s Sports Leadership Council, and took part in the 2021 Presidential Inauguration as part of the Celebrating America event.

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