Liverpool forward Mo Salah and Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton were among the winners at the 2021 Laureus World Sports Awards.
The awards, which were hosted in Seville but staged in a digital format amid coronavirus and travel restrictions, highlighted professional sportspeople who used their position to make a powerful impact on societal issues over the last 12 months and illustrated the tirelessness of some professionals during the global pandemic.
Liverpool and Egypt's Salah was honoured with the Sporting Inspiration Award following his support for charitable causes and commitment to fighting social injustice during the last few years. He is active in regeneration projects in Nagrig, his hometown where the majority of the people there live in poverty.
The 28-year-old, who is second in the Premier League top scorers chart and helped Liverpool towards the title last season, is a powerful advocate of women's equality in the Middle East and has been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
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Upon receiving his award, Salah dedicated the accolade to sports fans around the globe and those who have endured a "difficult" past 12 months.
He said: "I'm very proud to have been chosen by the Laureus Academy for this Sporting Inspiration Award.
"2020 was a very difficult year, on so many levels and for so many people around the world. Some of us were kept away from our family and friends, and others even lost loved ones. We need to learn from this experience, support one another, and do our best to look ahead.
"Many times, football players win awards and automatically thank our fans. This time, I will dedicate this award not only to our fans but to all the other sports fans around the world.
"This past year has been a very harsh reminder of the fact that sport, including football, is nothing without fans. Everyone in the world of sport can be replaced, fans cannot. I will end on that note. Once again, thank you very much."
Lewis Hamilton, who won a seventh F1 world title during 2020, was named Laureus Athlete Advocate of the Year Award following his consistent outspoken support for fighting racial injustice.
He wore a 'Black Lives Matter' race helmet and black race suit as well as taking a knee at each Grand Prix last season, while the Mercedes-AMG Petronas cars were painted in black livery as a statement of the team's commitment to diversity.
Hamilton picked up an honour for the second year in a row after being named joint Sportsman of the Year alongside Lionel Messi in 2020 and said of his latest personal achievement: "A huge thank you to the Laureus World Sports Academy for presenting me with this incredible award.
"This past year has been incredibly difficult for so many, but it has also been heartening to see the power of our collective voices spark new conversations and change.
"The impact of each and every one of you who have stood up, is so inspiring, so I want to thank you. Please keep fighting, keep shining your light.
"The global rising to address the longstanding issue of systemic racism and inequality in our society has been monumental, but we must continue to fight. We must all see ourselves as responsible for making positive change in our world, and hold ourselves accountable, so that the promises of last year turn into action.
"I truly believe that together, we will get there, and so I stand with you as we push forwards. I'm sending you all love and positivity, stay safe. Thank you."
Rafael Nadal won the Sportsman of the Year Award after his 13th French Open win which brought him level on 20 career Grand Slams with Roger Federer, and Naomi Osaka, who won the US Open for the second time, took the Sportswoman of the Year Award.
In a powerful gesture, Osaka wore different facemasks at each of her matches at Flushing Meadows which showed the names of Americans who had died as a result of racial injustice in the country.
The tennis star, ranked No 2 in the world, said: "Regarding my activism on the court, I think it is important to use my voice, because for me I feel like I often hold back a lot and worry about what people think of me, but you know if you have a platform it is very important you use it.
"Looking ahead my main hopes for the future would be just to have helped or impacted as many people as I could and, hopefully be a better person."
Elsewhere, World Team of the Year was picked up by Bayern Munich after the Bavarian giants won the Champions League, DFB-Pokal, and the Bundesliga title under head coach Hansi Flick in a formidable 2019/20 season.
Patrick Mahomes took the World Breakthrough of the Year after leading Kansas City Chiefs in 2020 to their first Super Bowl appearance and win in 50 years.
The 25-year-old was at the forefront of a group of NFL stars who petitioned the league to look into its conduct and attitudes to racism and political protest. The Chiefs' No 15 also supports 15 community children's projects with his foundation '15 and the Mahomies'.
Full list of winners
World Sportsman of the Year Award: Rafael Nadal
World Sportswoman of the Year Award: Naomi Osaka
World Team of the Year Award: Bayern Munich
World Breakthrough of the Year Award: Patrick Mahomes
World Comeback of the Year Award: Max Parrot
Sport for Good Award: KICKFORMORE by KICKFAIR
Lifetime Achievement Award: Billie Jean King
Athlete Advocate of the Year Award: Lewis Hamilton
Sporting Inspiration Award: Mohamed Salah
Sporting Moment of the Year Award: Chris Nikic
The Laureus World Sports Awards were held in Seville on Thursday evening (May 6) in a 'virtual' format as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, please visit www.laureus.com