Wednesday saw lots of postponements in sports in protest of the police shooting Jacob Blake, with the NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS all postponing games after teams elected not to play. Wednesday night also saw a prominent individual athlete make that same decision: tennis’ Naomi Osaka.
Osaka, the 22-year-old Japanese-American player who won the U.S. Open singles title in 2018 and the Australian Open singles title in 2019, advanced to the semifinals at the Western & Southern Open with a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Anett Kontaveit of Estonia Wednesday afternoon. (The tournament is also normally known as the Cincinnati Masters, but it’s actually being played in New York this year ahead of the U.S. Open as part of tennis’ changes thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.) But Osaka (seen above during that match) then tweeted Wednesday night that she won’t play in Thursday’s semifinal, citing “the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police”:
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) August 27, 2020
That is quite the statement from Osaka, and it’s quite the move for her to withdraw here. While the Western & Southern Open isn’t a major, it’s still a prominent tournament, and winning it (or even advancing to the final) could be very good for her ahead of the U.S. Open. But she’s chosen to join the other athletes taking a stand instead. And as she notes, tennis is a majority-white sport, so extending this conversation there could be important. We’ll see what’s ahead for Osaka.
Update: After Osaka’s move, the various tennis governing bodies decided to pause play at that tournament (on both the men’s and women’s sides) Thursday.
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures pic.twitter.com/Ha39uJjyjd
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) August 27, 2020
[Naomi Osaka on Twitter]