John Cena received the 2018 Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for his leadership as a philanthropist on Tuesday night.
The award was created in 2008 and renamed after Ali in 2015. Bill Russell, Colin Kaepernick, Jack Nicklaus, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown and Earvin "Magic" Johnson have received the award in the past.
Cena was presented the award at SI's Sportsperson of the Year event at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles while WWE SmackDown was being held in Las Vegas. SI has praised Cena for his more than 600 Make-A-Wish Wishes in addition to his breast cancer awareness work.
As seen below, Cena accepted the award on behalf of WWE and made it clear that WWE is still his top priority, despite the reduced schedule and work in Hollywood.
"I've just been given the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award here at the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Awards," Cena said. "It's truly moving to see some of of those moments back and get to re-live some of those moments. To be mentioned in the same sentence as Ali, let alone a respectable comparison, comparable legacy is simply incredible. I just wanted to say that I accepted this award tonight on behalf of all the WWE Superstars because I believe if put in my shoes, they would all make the exact same choice.
"Tonight is a wonderful night for WWE because here I am, a sports entertainer, being awarded a tremendous honor among athletes. It's not something that probably would have happened a few years ago but it's amazing to see culture change, and people have open minds about what we do, and accept us for just being damn good at what we do. I'm actually sending this award to Connecticut so it's going to be displayed in WWE headquarters because that's where it belongs. It's part of all of us, it's for all of us. I'm headed onto Hong Kong to keep that legacy thing going. Like I said, I love what I do and I'm going to be doing what I love and tonight was a tremendous honor. So thank you, Sports Illustrated."
Cena also took to Twitter and commented on the big night being for those in WWE.
He wrote, "Tonight was for "us." The privilege we have to entertain fans young and old has opened to the possibilities of what can be accomplished in and out of the ring. Thank you @SINow for this amazing honor and @TheRealLailaAli @ikebarinholtz for presenting tonight. Now...back to work!"
Cena is currently promoting the new Bumblebee movie, the Transformers-spinoff movie that he stars in. He's headed back to China to continue working on the "Project X-traction" movie with Jackie Chan. Cena is scheduled to return to the ring for WWE at RAW and SmackDown live events this month, beginning with the December 26 show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Cena's WWE TV return is currently scheduled for the January 7, 2019 RAW in Orlando. WWE has Cena booked for only red brand events after January 1. Cena has not wrestled since the WWE Super Show-Down event in Australia back on October 6. He teamed with Bobby Lashley to defeat Elias and Kevin Owens that night.
Tonight was for "us." The privilege we have to entertain fans young and old has opened to the possibilities of what can be accomplished in and out of the ring. Thank you @SINow for this amazing honor and @TheRealLailaAli @ikebarinholtz for presenting tonight. Now...back to work! https://t.co/JvCa5DMOOa— John Cena (@JohnCena) December 12, 2018