- 22 Dec 2020
US Open champion Naomi Osaka says that athletes have a right and a duty to speak up about society’s problems – and she will continue to do so.
In a passionate column for the New York Times, the former world No 1 praised the off-court achievements of basketball star LeBron James and NFL’s Colin Kaepernick.
The 23-year-old said that athletes are often told to concentrate on their sport and refrain from sharing their opinions, but hit back:
“When we are not performing, we live in the same country as everyone else. And as plenty of athletes today can attest, that means we are subject to the same injustices and inequalities that have led to the murder of people who look just like us but who don’t enjoy the same protections afforded by our fame, access and support systems…
“Sports have never been apolitical, and as long as they continue to be played by human beings, they won’t be.”
“A long way to go”
During her campaign at Flushing Meadows, prior to each of her matches, Osaka donned a mask emblazoned with the name of a person who had died from racist violence or police brutality.
When asked after the final what message she was trying to convey, she responded:
“What was the message that you got was more the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”
And in her NYT column, she pointed out that athletes throughout history have taken a public stance for social justice, from boxer Muhammad Ali to sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos – and also singled out Venus Williams and Coco Gauff from the world of tennis for their achievements to promote racial and gender equality.
She concluded: “Yet even with all this progress, I still feel like we as athletes have a long way to go.
“Today, given the television coverage we receive and our prominence on social media, athletes have platforms that are larger and more visible than ever before. The way I see it, that also means that we have a greater responsibility to speak up.”