Osaka withdraws as protest for social justice, tournament paused

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Sports boycotts swept across the United States on Wednesday and they went all the way to the tennis bubble in New York. Naomi Osaka has announced that she will not play her semifinal match.

Naomi Osaka is withdrawing from her Western & Southern Open semifinal match against Elise Mertens as part of the wave of sports boycotts across the United States that are in protest for social justice. A couple of hours following Osaka’s announcement the Western & Southern said that the tournament will be paused until Friday, as indicated by a joint statement made by the ATP, WTA, and USTA. There will be no matches on Thursday.

Osaka, whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese, announced her decision via social media on Wednesday night.

“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. Watching the continued genocide of black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach. I’m exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I’m extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again. When will it ever be enough?”

Patrick Mouratoglou, coach of Serena Williams and founder of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown, retweeted Osaka’s post and added, “Good job.” Several players and tennis leaders such as Sloane Stephens, Billie Jean King, Andy Murray, and Alize Cornet supported her decision.

The two-time Grand Slam champion battled into the semifinals by beating Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 on Wednesday afternoon. She was scheduled to go up against Mertens in the first match on Thursday’s schedule at 11:00 a.m.

Protests around the United States began when the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks refused to play their playoff game in Orlando against the Orlando Magic. Two other NBA games were boycotted, as well. It continued into the night with cancelled games in Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer .

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