December 9, 2022

Courtesy of Naya Tapper

Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are putting the spotlight on the diverse journeys of Black women across sports—from the veteran athletes, to up-and-coming stars, coaches, executives and more—in the series, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.

Much like what Tiger Woods did for golf and the Williams sisters did for tennis, 27-year-old Naya Tapper is taking rugby—a stereotypically men’s sport—and changing the game. And it’s not just about how people see rugby, but how women in general are perceived when it comes to contact sports. Women are often taught to shy away from contact sports, with the mindset being that women aren’t built for that kind of physical competition. If we do see images of women playing contact sports they are often ridiculed, masculinized or toned down to appear less aggressive.