ACTION, NOT WORDS: Naomi Osaka is taking a stand against what she said is “the continued genocide of Black people” and will not compete in the rest of the Western & Southern Open.
After the five-time title winner on the WTA Tour revealed the news via Twitter Wednesday, the USTA, the ATP Tour and the WTA have suspended play today in order “to take a stance against racial inequality and social injustice.”
Following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., and protests, major sports events have been postponed — driven largely by players. One-by-one sports leagues like the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and Women’s National Basketball Association postponed games Wednesday. The NBA announced that Thursday’s playoff games will not be played as scheduled.
Osaka, a 22-year-old Nike-sponsored athlete tweeted about her decision to not compete in the semifinals match at the Western & Southern Open that was scheduled for Thursday, saying, “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. 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?”
Tennis legend Billie Jean King tweeted her support of Osaka, praising her “brave and impactful move in support of the protest movement moving through the sports world….Athletes using platforms for good means so much. Don’t remain silent.”
The USTA posted the following statement Thursday, “As a sport, tennis collectively is taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again had been thrust to the forefront of 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.”
Play is expected to resume Friday at the tournament, which is a warm-up to the U.S. Open.
Asked if any Adidas-sponsored athletes have bowed out of the U.S. Open, which is scheduled to start in New York City Monday, an Adidas spokeswoman said that the company could not answer that. She deferred comment to an Adidas Instagram post that reads, “We support all players and coaches across sport who are using their platforms to demand justice. BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
That post had received nearly 113,400 likes as of Thursday afternoon – 17 hours after it was posted.
Asked to comment regarding Osaka’s decision, a Nike spokesperson referenced a company statement issued Thursday. “Nike stands in support of NBA and WNBA players and athletes across the sports community in their response to the senseless shooting of Jacob Blake. We remain committed to addressing the issue of systemic racism experienced by the Black community.”
This article was updated on August 27.