‘Before I’m an athlete, I’m a black woman’: Tennis star Naomi Osaka quits US tournament in protest over Jacob Blake shooting
27 Aug, 2020 01:32 / Updated 2 hours ago
Naomi Osaka of Japan during her match against Anett Kontaveit of Estonia in the Western & Southern Open Robert Deutsch © Reuters / USA TODAY Sports / Robert Deutsch
The former top-ranked women's tennis player, Naomi Osaka, has said she is withdrawing from the Western & Southern Open ahead of the semifinals to trigger discussion about the “genocide of black people at the hands of police.”
Osaka announced her decision to not play in the semifinal match on Thursday, where she was scheduled to meet Elise Mertens of Belgium, in a post on Twitter.
The two-time Grand Slam champion Osaka, who has become the highest paid female athlete in history after racking up $37.4 million last year, primarily due to lucrative sponsorship deals, said she does not expect “anything drastic to happen” with her refusal to play, but hopes to “get a conversation started in a majority white sport.”
Watching the continuing genocide of black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.
Osaka was born in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, but moved to the US when she was a toddler and has been living and training there since she was three-years old. She rose to international stardom after beating veteran Serena Williams to win the 2018 US Open and went on to win the Australian Open the same year.
Osaka used to have dual Japan-US citizenship, but confirmed in an interview last year that she would be giving up her US passport in order to play on Team Japan in the Tokyo Olympics.
The Japanese tennis star’s walkout follows a decision by the NBA to place all playoff matches scheduled for Wednesday on hold after the Milwaukee Bucks chose to boycott their bout with the Orlando Magic in a protest over the Blake shooting.
Blake was shot seven times in the back by Kenosha, Wisconsin police as they were responding to a domestic violence call. The Wisconsin Department of Justice has revealed that the officers attempted to subdue Blake with a Taser, but said that it did not stop him from opening the driver’s side door of his van to reach inside. In the aftermath of the incident, Blake admitted that he had a knife in his possession which was then recovered inside the car.
Blake’s shooting has sparked a wave of violent unrest in the city, seeing businesses ransacked and burned and two people killed in a confrontation between an armed vigilante and rioters.