Just hours after a hard-fought victory over Anett Kontaveit in Wednesday’s quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open, bi-racial Naomi Osaka that plays for Japan announced that she was leaving the tournament to raise awareness about “the continued genocide of black people at the hand of the police”, as 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot seven times and injured by police on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The half-Haitian half-Japanese Osaka, who attended Black Lives Matter protests this year, explained her decision on Twitter:
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.
In a recent interview for WSJ Magazine, the two-time Grand Slam champion expressed her opinion about athletes speaking out on social and political issues:
I hate when random people say athletes shouldn’t get involved with politics and just entertain. Firstly, this is a human rights issue. Secondly, what gives you more right to speak than me? By that logic if you work at Ikea you are only allowed to talk about [furniture]?
For the same reason, the USTA has suspended play on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open:
As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States. The USTA, ATP Tour, and WTA have decided to recognize this moment in time by pausing tournament play at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday, August 27. Play will resume on Friday, August 28.