Naomi Osaka ‘a Jesse Owens of Japan’ for racial injustice stand

By: Reuters |

September 12, 2020 8:18:20 pm

Naomi Osaka will face Victoria Azarenka within the US Open ladies’s singles remaining on Saturday. (Source: AP)

Naomi Osaka has been the dominant storyline of the 2020 U.S. Open, each for on-court performances that imply she will probably be enjoying in Saturday’s remaining and for her vocal help of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) motion.

Before every match, Osaka has worn a masks bearing the identify of a unique Black American in a strong image of her help for the combat towards racial injustice within the United States.

Osaka, who has a Japanese mom and Haitian father, could symbolize Japan however she lives in Los Angeles and has joined a number of BLM protests throughout the nation this 12 months.

Although her focus has been on racial injustice over the previous few months, the 23-year-old has lengthy been a logo for change in Japan.

Osaka is one of the nation’s most recognised personalities and has change into the face of a altering Japan coming to phrases with challenges to its self-image as a racially homogenous society.

Baye McNeil, a outstanding Japan-based African-American creator and activist, sees Osaka as the subsequent in a line of nice Black athlete activists resembling boxer Muhammad Ali and sprinter Jesse Owens.

“Muhammad Ali… put his career on the line in order to protest things that he thought were unjust or just wrong. And I think Naomi is on that path,” McNeil advised Reuters from Yokohama.

“She is becoming a member of a group that has a historical past, has a legacy, going all the way in which again past Jesse Owens. In reality, what she is doing may be very according to Jesse Owens. Not essentially for her impression on America however on Japan.

“I kind of think of her as a Jesse Owens of Japan.”


Naomi Osaka Naomi Osaka wears a masks in honor of Breonna Taylor. (Source: File)

McNeil, who moved to Japan 16 years in the past, believes Osaka and different biracial athletes like basketball participant Rui Hachimura and Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish could be catalysts for change simply by competing.

“It doesn’t even require them to say anything, you just look at them and say ‘Oh my God, this is a Black woman representing Japan,’” he stated.

“This is something Japan has never faced before and I am not sure how exactly they are going to resolve this, or how they are going to modify the narrative, but some modification is required.”

Jaime Smith, who helped organise June’s BLM protest in Tokyo, thinks many Japanese folks don’t see Osaka’s activism as regarding their very own nation.

“They see it from the viewpoint that she is a Black American woman, even though she’s half Japanese, and she is speaking out about an American problem, so I still think there’s some wilful ignorance there,” Smith advised Reuters.

“That’s the kind of mindset we are trying to change.”

Smith, who moved from the U.S. to Japan three years in the past, sees Osaka as the right individual to push by way of this alteration.

“She is at a point where she is huge worldwide and people can’t help but listen to her,” she stated.

“I think this is the perfect time to do what she is doing.”


Following her 2018 U.S. Open triumph, Osaka attracted a big quantity of sponsors, many of them large Japanese manufacturers, and have become the world’s highest paid feminine athlete, based on Forbes.

These sponsors haven’t at all times been supportive of Osaka’s campaigning towards racial injustice, nonetheless.

A report in Japanese newspaper Mainichi on Friday cited unnamed sources at one of her sponsors as criticising her BLM stance, saying they would favor her to focus on tennis.

If some in Japan are struggling to come back to phrases with Osaka’s activism, this was not obvious at Tokyo’s Godai tennis membership on Saturday morning.

“With the face masks, I perceive a kind of determination that she is facing her matches with these thoughts,” stated Chika Hyodo.

“I think she is trying to fulfil the role she was given as an athlete and I feel awesome about it. I support her.”

Osaka was a scorching subject of dialog on the membership because the youthful members had their weekly classes and there was no signal that her activism was having any impression on her reputation.

“She is a Japanese, strong female tennis player,” stated 10-year-old Ai Uemura.

“I think it’s great that she entertains people.”

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