Jamaica’s eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt was selected by The Medium as one of the most influential Black athletes of the 2010s. In choosing Bolt, The Medium called him “the most commanding force in short distance running” in the past two decades and arguably for all time. Bolt holds world records in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4×100-meter relay events at the Olympics. Outside the sports world, he established the Usain Bolt Foundation, which creates opportunities “through education and cultural development.” The Foundation invests millions of dollars in community development projects designed to improve the health and education of young people. In a recent effort, the Usain Bolt Foundation donated nearly $3 million to support online learning in rural areas in Jamaica that have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The other Black athletes listed for the influence during the second decade of the 21st century were American tennis superstar Serena Williams, Japanese tennis pro Naomi Osaka, soccer stars Sadio Mane of Senegal and Marcus Rashford of the UK, and American basketball legend LeBron James.
Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles, winning her first in 1999. She is currently among the top 15 players on the Women’s World tour and is a strong advocate for equality. She once told the CNN news network that the day she stops fighting for equality will be the day she dies.
Osaka was inspired by Williams and illustrated her support of Black Lives Matter in 2020 by wearing a different black mask into all of her matches at the US Open. Each mask had the name of an African American who had been killed by police in the US. She also withdrew from the Cincinnati Open until officials postponed the event for a day in support of Osaka’s desire to honor Jacob Blake and George Floyd, who had been victims of the police.
Soccer players Sadio Mane of Liverpool and Marcus Rashford of Manchester United also impacted society in the 2000s. Mane won the UEFA Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League title in 2020 and funded a hospital and school in his home village in Senegal. Rashford has helped to make sure children living in poverty received free school meals throughout the year and called on the government in Britain to raise the value of food vouchers for struggling families.
LeBron James won four Most Valuable Player awards, four NBA championships, and was the dominant player in basketball during the past ten years. Outside of his sports career, he established the LeBron James Family Foundation to help open a school, a housing complex, and a community center in Akron, Ohio, his hometown. He has also strongly voiced his opinions on racial inequality, police shootings, and responses of the presidential administration at the time to injustice.
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