Tennis star Naomi Osaka said Wednesday she’s skipping out on her semifinal match in the Western & Southern Open to protest racial injustice. After she announced her decision, tennis officials paused play at the tournament in Cincinnati for Thursday.
Following the Milwaukee Bucks players’ boycott of an NBA playoff game, Osaka and other teams in different pro sports followed suit. In an Instagram post on Wednesday, the 22-year-old said in English and Japanese that she was tired of the police violence against Black people, mentioning Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and George Floyd.
Osaka, who was named the world’s highest-paid female sports athlete earlier this year, said she would not be playing her Thursday match.
“…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 former No. 1 ranked player said. “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,” she added.
Tennis organizers posted a statement announcing they were stopping matches on Thursday in solidarity.
“As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States. 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 on Friday, August 28.”
The reaction from the sports world comes days after the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot seven times as he leaned into his SUV by an officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, with his three children inside. His lawyer said Tuesday that Blake is paralyzed and is “struggling to sustain his life.”