Naomi Osaka joined many other athletes in a protest to bring awareness to police violence in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake.
The tennis star announced her intent to step away from the Western & Southern Open to bring attention to the ongoing struggle.
She made the announcement in a tweet that had the message in both English and Japanese.
https://t.co/miKzgSdGxY— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ)1598489619.0
The message says:
"Hello, as many of you are aware I was scheduled to play my semifinals match tomorrow. However, 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."
"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."
Osaka goes on to call the deaths and attacks on Black people at the hands of police officers a "continued genocide" and her frustration at how often a new hashtag is started for a victim, just for this violence to happen all over again.
Despite her modesty about the effect her choice would have on the sport, Osaka is the world's highest-paid female athlete, and it was only natural people took notice of her intention to not play the tournament.
Many online cheered her decision.
Yes girl. Let them know! https://t.co/L7zFC3ruse— K.W. (@K.W.)1598583234.0
This is awesome! #BlacklivesStillMatter https://t.co/InKeF0KWT9— jhugs (@jhugs)1598552765.0
@ShehuSani @CBSNews @NPSusa Great indeed ✊— Timothy Idiege (@Timothy Idiege)1598556883.0
Athletes and sports teams across the country have been striking to try and help keep national attention focused on the protests against police brutality. The NBA, WNBA, MLB all had to cancel games after players announced boycotts and strikes, and now even tennis has been forced to postpone.
The WTA and USTA postponed all matches Thursday and will resume play on Friday. Such a massive change could not have come about without a major player like Osaka taking a stand.
To that end, she has agreed to return to play Friday.
@SInow Naomi took the lead and everyone followed ✨ https://t.co/6njtWtbos1— home of sɛkʃʊəl tagalog (@home of sɛkʃʊəl tagalog)1598499740.0
Next let’s do Congress! https://t.co/phbqpDjzQX— Surreality (@Surreality)1598554596.0
@AdeleScalia You never know. I truly didn’t think USTA would postpone tennis today!!— KANN (@KANN)1598573170.0
@amyjojohannson @CNN Interesting question— GenX Voter (@GenX Voter)1598540624.0
Osaka said in a statement to The Guardian:
"...After my announcement and lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA, I have agreed at their request to play on Friday. They offered to postpone all matches until Friday and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement."
"I want to thank the WTA and the tournament for their support."
The choice of a single player needing to take this gamble is in stark contrast to the strikes in other sports. The NBA players were taking a risk as well, but had their teams to back them up and bring more attention to the issue.
Since tennis is such an isolated game, this choice would have to try and make waves with a single player, or at best, two. But Osaka's decision ended up working.
She found support even from other tennis players.
Milos Raonic, one of the most successful Canadian single male players in tennis history, heard about Osaka's boycott during a match and immediate offered support.
"I think having a sign somewhere of support, banners at a tournament or wearing a shirt in a warmup in a NBA game, it can only do so much."
"I think real disruption and, you know, I think that's what makes change. I think a lot of real disruption is caused by affecting people in a monetary way, and that can force some kind of change."