Naomi Osaka wore masks at the 2020 US Open honoring seven different victims of racial injustice Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
tennis

Naomi Osaka hints at more racial justice activism

32 Comments
By Peter HUTCHISON

Naomi Osaka said she wants to be known for more than just tennis, suggesting she will keep campaigning for racial justice after winning her third Grand Slam at the U.S. Open Saturday.

Osaka, of Japanese and Haitian heritage, wore different masks honoring victims of systemic racism and police brutality in the United States in each of the tournament's seven rounds.

The 22-year-old said thinking time during the coronavirus lockdown, which coincided with protests across the United States over the police killing of black man George Floyd, had led to her political awakening.

"I would definitely say it's been an important few months," Osaka told reporters after coming from a set down to beat Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"For me, my life was always go-go tennis-wise, especially after the previous U.S. Open that I won (in 2018). It definitely accelerated things, and I've never had a chance to slow down.

"The quarantine definitely gave me a chance to think a lot about things -- what I want to accomplish, what I want people to remember me by. I came into this tournament, or these two tournaments, with that mindset."

Osaka first took an activist stance at the Western & Southern Open, a U.S. Open tuneup event, when she threatened not to play her semifinal match in protest at the police shooting of black man Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

She said she was "sick to her stomach" and "exhausted" by repeated violence against black people by U.S. police.

Her decision prompted the WTA and ATP to postpone all semifinal matches by a day, inspiring Osaka to change her mind and make herself available for the final.

Osaka's move came after the Milwaukee Bucks led a historic boycott over the shooting, forcing the NBA to halt its playoff schedule and prompting a wave of walkouts across multiple sports.

She walked onto the court for her first match at the U.S. Open wearing a mask bearing the name Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician who was killed when police shot her in her own apartment in March.

Osaka then donned face coverings honoring Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Philando Castile.

In Saturday's final she honored Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy who was shot dead by a white police officer in Cleveland, Ohio in 2014.

During the tournament Osaka received video messages from Arbery's father and Martin's mother thanking her for her bringing worldwide attention to their stories.

She said Saturday that she would like to meet relatives of the victims.

"Definitely. I feel like for me I learn more through experiences. For me, I feel like sharing stories and hearing people's experiences is very valuable," she said.

Osaka added that her boyfriend, the rapper Cordae, who supported her from the stands at the U.S. Open, had influenced her views about racial and social justice.

"I've read a lot into Haitian history. My dad always talks about that," said Osaka. "For me, my boyfriend's really like into reading a lot, so he's been passing me books.

"I try not to get most of my information from the news. I try to form my own opinion sort of."

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


32 Comments

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Good for Naomi-chan. It would be easier to say and do nothing, just keep winning tournaments and banking huge money. The fact she speaks up about the racism by police against Black people in the US - like poor 12 year old Tamir Rice who was shot dead by racist thugs - demonstrates the great young woman that she is.

Say their names for Justice, Naomi-chan. We stand with you.

-4 ( +22 / -26 )

Not a criticism per se, but I do wish she would also use her celebrity to highlight the very real discrimination faced by racial/ethnic minorities in Japan, the country she represents...

7 ( +29 / -22 )

Good for you Naomi, many of us stand with you on and off the court in your fight against racism and injustice whether America or any other country in the world.

Not a criticism per se, but I do wish she would also use her celebrity to highlight the very real discrimination faced by racial/ethnic minorities in Japan, the country she represents...

A simple online search shows that she has spoken out about the racism she experienced in Japan.

https://www.essentiallysports.com/tennis-news-wta-naomi-osaka-tears-into-existence-of-racism-in-japan/

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/aug/25/naomi-osaka-reflects-on-challenges-of-being-black-and-japanese

-2 ( +20 / -22 )

After listening to her press conference, I find this article quite misleading and her answers, pushed by the journalists’ questions, quite spun into a narrative

1 ( +8 / -7 )

Culd you repeat it in Japanese Naomi San??

0 ( +18 / -18 )

Good on your Naomi Chan.

The racists will hate you, but that's they have going for them!!

-1 ( +17 / -18 )

Good for her and please do it on your own time as a private individual.

2 ( +18 / -16 )

Good for her and please do it on your own time as a private individual.

In addition to her time in public? Good idea!

3 ( +16 / -13 )

Sorry garypen, she is paid to play tennis not pontificate.

7 ( +23 / -16 )

Will be interesting to see if she is willing to put some of her sponsorships at risk to speak out about racism in Japan. I suspect not.

-1 ( +14 / -15 )

@Kurisu

But does she represent Japan? She doesn't live here, is half Haitian and said herself that she is black.

9 ( +16 / -7 )

@oldman13

she has spoken out about the racism she experienced in Japan.

Yes, "spoken about," only to rationalize and even defend it, in those articles you posted.

Ergot: "Osaka said she believes problems of race in Japan are down to ignorance rather than hate."

No mention of her grandparents kicking her family out of the home on the basis of race. That was clearly "hate," but let's not talk about that, eh. Definitely she harbors an anti-white bias, which is why she isn't worth listening to.

-1 ( +14 / -15 )

Osaka first took an activist stance at the Western & Southern Open, a U.S. Open tuneup event, when she threatened not to play her semifinal match in protest at the police shooting of black man Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

Her awareness campaign is her choice. If this is how she can get motivated and focused, that's also a good gaming strategy (she proved herself this time). Meanwhile it's reported that Osaka had already consulted with her staff & neighbors beforehand, so it was not necessarily abrupt, selfish act.

While having no particular position or strong commitment to whichever side, I'm aware of opinion diversity (seems to be more polarized...). I'm happy to have a free and open space. On the other side of the world people showing certain "dissenting" views get suppressed or much worse.

All the same, I congratulate Osaka on her achievement. She's growing.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

Play tennis, be a champion.

Have an opinion voice that opinion, leave activism to the mandated elected politicians.

Your platform is tennis, not political activism.

6 ( +19 / -13 )

I don't know why she chose to be a Japanese citizen. She doesn't even speak Japanese. And shes clearly more emotionally attached to American society

5 ( +20 / -15 )

Her talent in tennis is real, using a sideshow to attract attention away from that fact

isn't wise.

2 ( +13 / -11 )

Really proud of Naomi Osaka taking a stand against the racist killers in the US police system. Many other athletes doing so too. Was great to read her tweets about her experiences arching in the streets. These names and these incidents need to be discussed worldwide.

She has played amazing tennis in the past 3 weeks hope she can carry the form on into the French Open in 2-3 weeks time.

-2 ( +13 / -15 )

But does she represent Japan? She is half Haitian and said herself that she is black.

Wow. Since when does skin color have anything to do with the appropriateness of representing Japan, or any other country for that matter.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

she is paid to play tennis not pontificate.

She can do what she wants. Just as you can decide to pay attention or not.

Good on her, and congratulations.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

Time to defund Naomi Osaka. Congrats to her, but fans have a choice too. I've been a huge fan, but I will be less so from now on. Anyone who goes out with a boyfriend (rapper Cordae) who wears "Defund the Police" t-shirts is an ignorant fool who will ultimately do more damage to the health of Blacks. Her Tamir Rice mask also shows how equally uninformed she is. Rice was only 12 when he was shot, but he was a Black male weighing 195 lbs (see "official" autopsy report) pointing a fake gun at people when police shot him. Of course, no one was prosecuted for murder because when the orange tip is removed it is difficult to determine if a gun is real. https://legalinsurrection.com/2015/12/no-indictment-of-police-in-tamir-rice-shooting/ The rest of her masks (Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile) also show that she is uninformed. McClain's case is still under investigation; Arbery was not shot by police and the case has not gone to trial yet; Martin was also not shot by police and the accused was found not guilty (Martin was pounding on the gunman); Castile was shot by police but officer was acquitted (Castile said he had a gun but refused to comply with repeated instructions not to reach for anything). The George Floyd case is also still under investigation although we've all seen the video. I feel badly for Mr. Floyd and Mr. Walter Scott, but I'm sick and tired of all these anti-police protests. Sometimes tragedies happen. Sometimes there are bad cops. I wish Miss Osaka all the happiness in the world. I respect what she has done. She has carried herself with class that Serena Williams lacks. She is free to associate with anyone she likes and is free to express herself, but I am also free to express my displeasure with this anti-police atmosphere that she is promoting. It may result in being less of a fan (I was pretty indifferent as to who won in the final) and being angry with any companies who want to be associate with individuals who are anti-police. I don't have to buy Nike (already didn't), Yonex and Cup Noodles.

4 ( +16 / -12 )

Athletes did not become who they are in a vacuum. If they can use their celebrity to highlight serious issues, I say good on them.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

The beauty of living in a western country is that you can voice your opinions in public. I'd love to see her say something (in Japanese) about the racial discrimination in her own country. You know, the country where her own parents were discriminated by their own Japanese relatives. Funny how her Japanese grandparents wanted nothing to do with her until she started bringing in the money. My, my. You'd think problems in her own country would be more important to her. But I guess it's easier to jump on the bandwagon, and also not upset domestic sponsors and fans.

6 ( +14 / -8 )

I don't know why she chose to be a Japanese citizen. She doesn't even speak Japanese. And shes clearly more emotionally attached to American society

According to public records of US citizens renouncing, there is no evidence that Naomi osaka has yet renounced her US citizenship officially.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Wow. Since when does skin color have anything to do with the appropriateness of representing Japan, or any other country for that matter.

No, you are twisting what I said. SHE does not consider herself Japanese as she said recently she is black. She does not live in Japan and cannot speak Japanese. As for appropriateness I've no idea where you got that from my comment.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Athletes did not become who they are in a vacuum.

Actually, many of them do. Their whole life is the game, and they know little else of the world.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

While I laid Ms Osaka's astute athletic skills, as a tennis player, I do think her "activism" detracts from her performance.

She mentioned Jacob Blake. She seems to have ignored his criminal history. But that's not politically correct, is it.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

I don't know why she chose to be a Japanese citizen. She doesn't even speak Japanese. And shes clearly more emotionally attached to American society

Naomi-chan was born a Japanese citizen. She was born in Japan. Her mother is Japanese. Being a fluent Japanese speaker is simply not a requirement for having her citizenship. She could choose speak only Swahili or Ainu if she wishes - it has nought to do with her being a Japanese citizen.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

I don't think that lack of awareness is an issue at this point. I guess we will see a funded organization from all sports players that pushes a legislative agenda? I am trying to figure out the "actavism" part, beyond just wearing a mask with names that Americans have heard on the news 24/7.

As others have said she is free to express anything she likes, I am not going to give her hate or a medal for doing so.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Seth M

I don't know why she chose to be a Japanese citizen. She doesn't even speak Japanese. And shes clearly more emotionally attached to American society

You have to distinguish between being a Japanese (emotionally and legally) and representing Japan (in tournaments).

At age of 13 her father decided for her to represent Japan because United States Tennis Association was not interested in her. At age of 21, when she had to make a decision for her legal status (due to Japanese law), she chose to be a legally Japanese so that she can represent Japan.

Legally she is a Japanese. Emotionally she is Japanese (like her mother), Haitian (like her father) and a black American. On courts, she represents Japan.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

If she's so eager to get political, why not say what she thinks to Japanese media in Japanese?

Might make a difference, who knows...

3 ( +6 / -3 )

TokyoJoe

No, you are twisting what I said. SHE does not consider herself Japanese as she said recently she is black. She does not live in Japan and cannot speak Japanese. As for appropriateness I've no idea where you got that from my comment.

I don’t think I’m twisting anything judging from your additional comment above. You state that she does not consider herself Japanese just because she is saying she’s black.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Osaka should be careful with the activism, she needs to think carefully & clearly so she doesnt end up making a mess of things. I think her heart is in the right place but she needs MORE than that or this will come back & bite her behind.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

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