While John Cena may be known best as a 16-time WWE champion, his philanthropic efforts are gaining well-deserved recognition too. This past December, Cena earned the 2018 Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, given to athletes who demonstrate a commitment to the ideals of sportsmanship and whose leadership outside of sports leaves a powerful impact on the world.
An avid supporter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Cena has granted nearly 600 wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses — setting a record for wishes granted by any individual through the organization. In addition to his work with Make-A-Wish, Cena is also passionate about lending his platform to causes related to breast cancer awareness and early detection.
Sports Illustrated executive editor Stephen Cannella made clear the reasoning behind the magazine’s decision to select Cena for the award: "From his unparalleled work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to his support for a wide range of causes ranging from activism for military families to cancer research, John has made personal outreach and generosity of time and spirit his calling cards.”
Cannella further praised Cena, stating that he is arguably the most charitable person in sports and that his dedication to philanthropy strongly aligns with the spirit of the award. Sports Illustrated added Muhammad Ali’s namesake to the Legacy Award in 2015 just a few years after establishing the honor in 2008.
“Ali's commitment to helping others, his dedication to the sport and his generous spirit are incomparable, and he was a role model to us all. To be linked with him in any way is an honor that means so much to me,” stated Cena upon receiving the award.
Like Ali, Cena’s social impact goes well beyond the ring. As a professional athlete, he has chosen to use his position to leave a positive legacy in the world and to share his resources with those who need his support most.