Tennis star Naomi Osaka joins athlete boycott in protest of Jacob Blake shooting

"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,” she said.
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Osaka made headlines in 2018 when she beat the athlete she grew up idolizing, Serena Williams, in the U.S. Open, becoming the first player from Japan to win a Grand Slam title.Pablo Morano / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Tennis champion Naomi Osaka posted a powerful message in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Osaka wrote she does not plan to play in the semifinals match of the Western & Southern Open against Elise Mertens on Thursday, as part of the ongoing professional athlete protests against racial injustice.

The two-time Grand Slam champion said she didn’t “expect anything drastic to happen” when she does not play her game but felt compelled to use her platform.

“…Before I am a 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,” she said in a post. “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.”

The NBA, MLB and WNBA all have seen games postponed after teams refused to play Wednesday. The NBA announced Wednesday evening several games will be rescheduled after the Milwaukee Bucks decided to not take the floor for their game against Orlando Magic.

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Several MLB teams also delayed their games.

“With our community and our nation in such pain, we wanted to draw as much attention to the issues that really matter, especially racial injustice and systemic oppression,” the players of the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds said in a joint statement announcing their decision not to play.

The MLB issued a statement following the postponements, writing they “respect the decisions of a number of players not to play tonight.”

“Major League Baseball remains united for change in our society and we will be allies in the fight to end racism and injustice,” the league added in a statement.

The WNBA also decided against playing.

"What we have seen over the last few months and most recently with the brutal police shooting of Jacob Blake is overwhelming,” Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream said in a statement on behalf of all WNBA players. “And while we hurt for Jacob and his community, we also have an opportunity to keep the focus on the issues and demand change.”

Osaka echoed that sentiment, adding she’s “extremely tired” of having the same conversation.

“Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach,” she said. “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?”

This is not the first time Osaka has spoken in support of racial equality. In an op-ed for Esquire last month, she explained she flew to Minneapolis in the days after George Floyd’s death to peacefully protest.

“When I came back to Los Angeles, I signed petitions, I protested, and I donated, like many of us,” she wrote. “But I kept asking myself what can I do to make this world a better place for my children? I decided it was time to speak up about systemic racism and police brutality.”

“Black people have been fighting this oppression alone for so many years and progress has been fleeting at best,” she added. “Being ‘not racist’ is not enough. We have to be anti-racist.”

Jacob Blake is in a hospital in Milwaukee paralyzed from the waist down, his family's lawyer said, after being shot in the back seven times by a police officer. Wednesday, the Wisconsin attorney general said Blake had been near a knife when the shooting took place but would not say if Blake was carrying the knife when he was shot.

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