'Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman': Naomi Osaka withdraws from WTA semi-final & demands racial justice

‘Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman’: Naomi Osaka withdraws from WTA semi-final & demands racial justice

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka, the highest paid female athlete in the world, has withdrawn from the semi-finals of the Western & Southern Open in New York, striking against racial injustice and the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Osaka’s trailblazing decision to withdraw from the competition prompted the entire sport to follow suit, with the whole tournament being put on hold for a day in solidarity.

Jacob Blake, 29, was shot seven times in the back by police in Wisconsin on Sunday in front of his young children.

“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,” Osaka wrote in a statement shared on her social media accounts.

“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.

“Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach. I’m exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I’m extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again. When will it ever be enough?”

Osaka’s strike came after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to contest their NBA playoff game against Orlando Magic on Wednesday. Strikes for racial justice have now spread across sporting codes in the United States, with NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer games called off.

The WTA, ATP Tour, and USTA released a joint statement, saying the Western & Southern Open would be paused.

“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 statement said,

“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.”

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