Joining many other athletes in protesting racial injustice, Naomi Osaka declared her intention not to play her Thursday semifinal match at the Western & Southern Open.
According to her statement, Osaka said, “Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.”
The tournament later announced that there would no matches played on Thursday, with its statement noting that, “As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust into the forefront in the United States.” Play will resume on Friday.
In a statement to The Guardian, Osaka said that, “I was (and am) ready and prepared to concede the match to my opponent.” But Osaka is on Friday’s schedule and is scheduled to face Elise Mertens.
Throughout the day, a number of people throughout the tennis community gave their thoughts in the sport’s latest historic moment.
In the same vein, Martina Navratilova, 18-time Grand Slam singles champion opined “I can’t say enough good things about Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff, they have the power to really impact the world off the court, thanks to their on-court exploits.
I think they’re going to use it and magnify it. Of course, so much of this is being driven by the players who are affected by it. This is a great step forward in social justice.”
In the meantime, Billie Jean King, 12-time Grand Slam singles champion said, “I am very proud of everyone in tennis for stepping up and I am very proud of sports for leading in these challenging times.
It is so important and energizing to see the men and women together on this issue and to show the world we are in this together. We can never let up.
We have a platform, we are visible and we must keep the pedal to the metal to keep fighting for equality and justice. Through the opportunities presented to us in sports, we can move the needle and we can bring about change. We have to do this.
“It’s not easy and it’s not the first time tennis has stepped up on inequality. We first faced the color barrier with Althea Gibson in the 1950s.
We attacked pay equity with the Original 9 in 1970. We addressed HIV/AIDS with Arthur Ashe. Now the young generation of tennis is leading, using their voices, their platform and placing themselves on the right side of history.”