I know I gave a little spotlight to tennis star Naomi Osaka a few times over the last few weeks, but she’s earned a bit more than that, as have a few of her colleagues at the U.S. Open.
Ramble of the Day
Over the course of the U.S. Open, a few players have chosen to use their platforms to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Sloane Stephens wore a Black Lives Matter mask, Stefanos Tsitsipas wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt, and Frances Tiafoe wrote “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” on his shoes. Most notably, though, Naomi Osaka has been wearing the names of Black people murdered by white people, many the victims of police brutality, on her mask before each of her matches.
Osaka has been vocal about racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd in May, protesting in Minneapolis and urging the Western & Southern Open to pause play on the day other sports followed suit after Jacob Blake was shot. I’ll point you towards two pieces of writing from the last few months about Osaka. First, her own words for Esquire in July, in part about her experiences as the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Haitian father:
There were even Black Lives Matter marches in Japan–something many of us would never have expected or imagined possible.
Japan is a very homogenous country, so tackling racism has been challenging for me. I have received racist comments online and even on TV. But that’s the minority. In reality, biracial people — especially biracial athletes — are the future of Japan. We (myself, Rui Hatchimura and others) have been embraced by the majority of the public, fans, sponsors, and media. We can’t let the ignorance of a few hold back the progressiveness of the masses. The love I feel from Japanese fans of all ages, especially the younger ones, has always been heart-warming. I am so proud to represent Japan and always will be.
It means so much to me that society evolves–that we take on systemic racism head-on, that the police protect us and don’t kill us. But I am proud, too, of the small part I have played in changing perceptions and opinions. I love the thought of a biracial girl in a classroom in Japan glowing with pride when I win a Grand Slam. I really hope that the playground is a friendlier place for her now that she can point to a role model and be proud of who she is. And dream big.
It’s a layered view of her life as a biracial woman, and her particular experiences as a Japanese woman. It also speaks to the wide-ranging impact of the recent Black Lives Matter protests. Osaka has spoken about the morphing nature of the conversation to becoming an international one. As someone with a global audience, She said after one of her first week matches, “I think tennis — people watch it all around the world. Things that we think (are) common names (are) probably not common overseas.”
Ben Rothenberg also had a good piece about Osaka during the first week of the tournament for The New York Times. I found that she ended up offering the right perspective to have on the issue of racial injustice, and a little bit of advice.
I don’t feel like I’m being brave; I just feel like I’m doing what I should be doing. So honestly, when people say “courageous” or anything, I don’t really resonate that well with it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing in this moment. ...
The biggest thing I can gain off of international viewers watching is for them to, like, Google the name, research the story, find out exactly what’s going on,” Osaka said. “Racism isn’t just an American thing; like, it’s all over the world. It affects people literally every day.
It’s something I think about frequently — being openly against racism needs to be treated as the neutral opinion, not particularly bold one way or another. When we aren’t openly anti-racist, we should treat that as deviating from the neutral stance even if we feel like society hasn’t overall met that neutral doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be. The practice of educating ourselves will only better our approach to things — in The New York Times piece, Osaka spoke about helping Tsitsipas educate himself, saying it was “very mature and intelligent” of him to reach out to her and begin that process of education. It’s something I hope many of us value and practice.
Links of the Day
Borussia Dortmund will launch a women’s team beginning in the eighth division in 2021-22.
David Beckham’s Guild Esports team is going public on the London Stock Exchange.
Transfer updates: Crystal Palace signed Michy Batshuayi on loan from Chelsea; Manchester United signed Alessia Russo on a free; Fulham signed Kenny Tete from Lyon; Brighton signed Jan Paul van Hecke from NAC Breda; Wolves signed Vitinha on loan from Porto
A longer read: Sid Lowe interviews Real Madrid’s Luka Modrić on growing up during and after the Croatian War of Independence for The Guardian