BREAKING: Naomi Osaka re-enters Cincinnati semifinals “after lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA”

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Is this the first time in tennis history that a player has pulled out of a tournament only to change their mind and continue to compete? Well, the strange 2020 season is bringing that to the table as well. After announcing that she refuses to play her Western & Southern Open semifinal as a way to draw attention to racial injustice, Naomi Osaka states that she will play her match against Elise Mertens on Friday.

So what happened? Some people are saying that media, myself included, misinterpreted Osaka’s initial statement, as she supposedly didn’t say that she was pulling out of the tournament, rather she only said that she was not playing her semifinal on the initially-scheduled Thursday. Since the tournament itself made a decision to take a stance against racial inequality by suspending play on Thursday, the WTA semifinals have been moved to Friday and Osaka is OK with playing on Friday.

As a reminder, here’s Osaka’s statement released shortly after she beat Anett Kontaveit to reach the semis:

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. I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport, I consider that a step in the right direction.

Personally, I still don’t think that I misinterpreted Osaka’s statement, even though it is true that she never mentioned the word “withdraw”. What I think happened is that the two-time Grand Slam champion has been persuaded to show up in the semis, as The Guardian reports:

As you know, I pulled out of the tournament yesterday in support of racial injustice and continued police violence. I was (and am) ready and prepared to concede the match to my opponent.

However, after my announcement and lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA, I have agreed at their request to play on Friday. They offered to postpone all matches until Friday and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement. I want to thank the WTA and the tournament for their support.

What do you think about all this mess? Do you remember anything similar happening ever? (photo: Jimmie48)


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7 COMMENTS

  1. I think she withdrew from the Tournament, but was convinced by the WTA/USTA to play. I wonder if her statement made them take a day off in support of BLM movement, and she would agree to play again?

    Regardless, I’m happy she will play, and I’m proud of her for taking a stance against police brutality.

  2. Jacob, I also think that Naomi’s withdrawal made the tournament decide to pause play on Thursday and then after some discussions they persuaded her to play on Friday, because her Thursday’s action did attract attention to the issue.

    As for her decision to withdraw, I am one of those people who don’t believe that sports and politics should mix, for a number of reasons, but let’s put it this way in a short sentence: there is so much injustice happening in the world every day, that if athletes behaved in the way Osaka did, no sports competition would ever exist. However, it is nice of her to be willing to sacrifice for a greater cause, she definitely had sincere intentions. She is young and has a good heart.

  3. Marija, you don’t get it. Enough is enough. It is sad that it has come to this that black lives are so disregarded and disrespected that its okay to die as long as those who are entertaining and playing sports turn a blind eye.
    I agree that there is so much injustice happening in the world everyday, and as individuals we have to do our part to bring about change we can’t leave to the next person or to the politicians
    Naomi you are my “Mohammad Ali” of the 21st century.
    I hate these condensing expressions ” However, it is nice of her to be willing to sacrifice for a greater cause, she definitely had sincere intentions. She is young and has a good heart.” Yet above you don’t believe that sports and politics should mix. ( You should have stopped there). It should not be ” that if athletes behaved in the way Osaka did, no sports competition would ever exist. ” Should it have to come to this…..another black man was killed at the hands of the very people who should be protecting the community and society, yet “if all athletes behaved in the way Osaka did, no competition would exist”…..think about that statement.
    Naomi, good luck today and always.

  4. Sheila, I don’t think you understand my point, but this is a really deep topic that I can’t even start going into. What happened to that man, and others, at the hands of the police is really horrible and even beyond my understanding. What I was trying to say, in short, is that there have been major injustices happening in the world for decades and tennis tournaments were going on as usual.

  5. Marija, silence and doing nothing is a part of the problem. I don’t have the answers……but something has to change. I can only see any attempts to bring this change about as being long overdue. I am done.

  6. Marija, I can understand your point that there is massive injustice everywhere and if athletes protested about everything there would be no sport. In a way sport exists parallel to politics and that is one of the good things about it.

    However – firstly I think it’s hard for people outside the US (including me) to understand just what an emotive issue this for them. There is a whole history which makes it about so much more than just the actual incidents. So even though there may be equally if not more terrible injustices going on elsewhere, this is a very charged issue for Americans and particularly black Americans. It’s always easier to feel more strongly about something that is near you and could affect you personally. Black athletes in the US have a lot of status and influence and their actions may effect change which is really necessary and important.

    Secondly, there have been times when countries have made a decision to involve politics in sport – for example the refusal to play sport with South Africa during the Apartheid era, and they were also suspended from the Olympics. So it seems that as a world we think its ok to mix politics and sport when its really important. And for Naomi and her colleagues, this current issue is really important.

  7. CLT, your comment is absolutely on point. I agree with everything you’ve said. When it comes to politics and sports being mixed, of course they have always been mixed, and athletes often suffered because of it.

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