Naomi Osaka, Tennis Star and Social Activist
Naomi Osaka, professional tennis player and representative of Japan, shows her activism in supporting racial justice whilst on the court. Ranked number one by the Woman’s Tennis Association, Osaka is the first asian tennis player to be ranked as a top singles player. After winning her third Grand Slam at the US Open, Osaka said that she wants to be known for more than just her efforts on the court. Moreover, she wants to share her advocacy for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Osaka’s Work with Social Activism
In the recent US Open, Osaka won her her second US open title in three years. In every round of the tournament, Naomi wore a mask donned with the name of a different victim of police brutality in the United States. At only 22 years old, Osaka emphasizes the urgency for these issues to be at the forefront of conversations. Additionally, to persist in having continuous, open dialogue, she suggests, is of the utmost importance.
How Quarantine Spurred Osaka’s Activism
Naomi Osaka opened up, noting how her time in quarantine incentivized her social justice actions. Furthermore, she has recognized that because of her vigorous career and training, she has never really had the time to slow down. She has spoken about how her time in lockdown, which aligned with protests in regard to the police killing of George Floyd – it was then that she was able to have some time for introspection. Additionally, similarly to other athletes, she has recognized how her recognition and platform can be used as a tool for supporting BLM and spreading awareness.
The Beginning of her Activist Journey
Osaka first showed her activism at the Western & Southern Open. In an effort to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake, she threatened to refuse playing in her semi-final match. Clearly exhausted by the enduring, racially-prejudiced police brutality, her actions resulted in the postponement of all semi-final matches by the WTA and ATP.
On her Twitter platform, Osaka stated,
“…before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. And as a black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis.”
When she finally got to play her matches, she entered the court with a mask bearing the name ‘Breonna Taylor’, a 26-year old killed by US police within her own apartment. In her following matches, she wore masks bearing the names of other victims: Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, and Philando Castile.
Osaka Continues Inspiring Others
Naomi Osaka’s strong stance carried over to various boycotts and protests headed by other athletes. For instance, the NBA suspended their playoff games and the WNBA has gone on strike. In addition, three major league baseball games and five major league soccer games were suspended. Chris Paul, NBA star, is one example of the many well-known and respected athletes who are continuing to raise support and awareness.
How can athletes continue to spread this activism?
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