Naomi Osaka Withdrew from a Tennis Match to Support the Black Lives Matter Movement
In the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, several athletes are boycotting events across tennis, basketball, and more.
Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka has pulled out of the Western & Southern Open semi-finals, which were set to take place on August 27th. In a Twitter post on Wednesday, August 26th, the athlete shared that she withdrew from the match to take a stand for the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man from Kenosha, Wisconsin.
A video of the shooting began circulating on social media earlier this week. In the video, Blake is seen getting shot in the back seven times by a police officer, while three of Blake's children watched from the backseat of his car, according to the New York Times. Blake has since undergone surgery and survived, but he is currently in the hospital, paralyzed, and will likely never walk again, according to CNN. The shooting has spurred outrage in Wisconsin, and a state of emergency has been declared following protests in the area.
Now, protests have carried into the world of sports, with Osaka being one of many athletes to voice her stance.
"Before I am [an] athlete, I am a Black woman," Osaka wrote in her post. "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."
The 22-year-old athlete went on to say that the unjust killings of Black people at the hands of police make her feel "exhausted and "sick to [her] stomach."
"When will it ever be enough?" she wrote.
"I don't expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing," she continued in her statement. "But if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport, I consider that a step in the right direction." (Related: Accessible and Supportive Mental Health Resources for Black Womxn)
Following Osaka's decision to walk out, the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA), Women's Tennis Association (WTA), and men's ATP Tour released a joint statement, announcing that all semi-final matches set to take place on Thursday, August 27th would be postponed.
"As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustices that have once again been thrust into the forefront in the United States," read the statement. "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 Friday, August 28." (Related: Serena Williams' Maternity Leave Is Making a Major Change In Women's Tennis Tournaments)
WNBA players also bowed out of several scheduled games in protest of Blake's shooting, according to the Washington Post.
In a powerful demonstration on the basketball court where they were scheduled to play on Wednesday, the Washington Mystics wore shirts emblazoned with Blake's name and seven bullet holes to represent the number of times Blake was shot by police. Joining the Mystics, WNBA players from the Atlanta Dreams, Minnesota Lynx, and Los Angeles Sparks knelt in solidarity on the court. (Related: What I Want People to Know About the Protests As a Black Business Owner Who Was Vandalized)
"We're not just basketball players. We're so much more than that," Mystics guard Ariel Atkins told ESPN in a live interview. "We have cousins, we have brothers, we have sisters, mothers, everyone. We matter. And I think that's important. I think people should know that. I'm tired of telling people that."
"I know I matter," continued Atkins. "I'm tired of telling people that. If you don't know that, if you don't think that, then you need to recheck it. And if you have a problem with us saying Black lives matter, you need to check your privilege. Because, yes, all lives matter, including the Black lives we're talking about. Yes, we matter, and I think that's important."
These widespread protests in sports come almost exactly four years, to the day, after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick took a major stand against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem during a preseason NFL game.
The fact that these protests happened on the same day, four years apart, is merely a coincidence. But it also serves as a poignant reminder that the fight for racial equality is far from over.