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Naomi Osaka: Japanese tennis star pulls out of semi-final match in solidarity with Jacob Blake protesters

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Lauren Geall
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Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka

In a show of solidarity with the Jacob Blake protestors and the Black Lives Matter movement, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has taken to Twitter to announce she will not be playing her semi-final match at the WTA Western and Southern Open in New York on 27 August.

As thousands take to the streets across America to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake – an unarmed Black man who was left paralysed from the waist down after police shot him several times in the back – sports stars from around the world have been boycotting games in solidarity with protesters.

What started with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks’ decision not to take to the floor on Wednesday (26 August) quickly became a movement after high-profile players including LeBron James tweeted their support.

But the movement hasn’t just been limited to basketball – in a now viral tweet, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has announced that she too won’t be playing her semi-finals match this week at the WTA Western and Southern Open in New York in protest of the ongoing police brutality against Black people across America. 

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“As many of you are aware I was scheduled to play my semi-finals match tomorrow,” Osaka began. “However, 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. Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.”

Osaka continued: “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? #JacobBlake, #BreonnaTaylor, #ElijahMcclain, #GeorgeFloyd.

This isn’t the first time Osaka has used her platform to speak out against racial injustice in America – since the death of George Floyd at the hands of four white police officers in May, she has used her social media channels to raise awareness of police violence and support the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Speaking in an interview with Reuters at the beginning of June, Osaka explained why speaking out about racism and injustice was so important to her, especially at this moment in time.

“I’m vocal because I believe in the movement and want to try and use my platform to facilitate change,” she said. “George Floyd’s murder and the situation generally in America has had a big impact on me.

“Being silent is never the answer. Everyone should have a voice in the matter and use it.”

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