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Naomi Osaka ‘a Jesse Owens of Japan’ for racial injustice stand

By: Reuters |

September 12, 2020 8:18:20 pm


Naomi Osaka will face Victoria Azarenka within the US Open ladies’s singles closing on Saturday. (Supply: AP)

Naomi Osaka has been the dominant storyline of the 2020 U.S. Open, each for on-court performances that imply she shall be enjoying in Saturday’s closing and for her vocal help of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) motion.

Earlier than every match, Osaka has worn a masks bearing the title of a distinct Black American in a robust image of her help for the battle towards racial injustice in america.

Osaka, who has a Japanese mom and Haitian father, could symbolize Japan however she lives in Los Angeles and has joined a number of BLM protests throughout the nation this 12 months.

Though her focus has been on racial injustice over the previous couple of months, the 23-year-old has lengthy been a logo for change in Japan.

Osaka is among the nation’s most recognised personalities and has turn into the face of a altering Japan coming to phrases with challenges to its self-image as a racially homogenous society.

Baye McNeil, a distinguished Japan-based African-American writer and activist, sees Osaka as the following in a line of nice Black athlete activists comparable to boxer Muhammad Ali and sprinter Jesse Owens.

“Muhammad Ali… put his profession on the road with a view to protest issues that he thought have been unjust or simply mistaken. And I feel Naomi is on that path,” McNeil informed Reuters from Yokohama.

“She is becoming a member of a group that has a historical past, has a legacy, going all the best way again past Jesse Owens. The truth is, what she is doing may be very according to Jesse Owens. Not essentially for her affect on America however on Japan.

“I type of consider her as a Jesse Owens of Japan.”

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE

Naomi Osaka Naomi Osaka wears a masks in honor of Breonna Taylor. (Supply: File)

McNeil, who moved to Japan 16 years in the past, believes Osaka and different biracial athletes like basketball participant Rui Hachimura and Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish could be catalysts for change simply by competing.

“It doesn’t even require them to say something, you simply have a look at them and say ‘Oh my God, this can be a Black lady representing Japan,’” he mentioned.

“That is one thing Japan has by no means confronted earlier than and I’m not certain how precisely they will resolve this, or how they will modify the narrative, however some modification is required.”

Jaime Smith, who helped organise June’s BLM protest in Tokyo, thinks many Japanese individuals don’t see Osaka’s activism as referring to their very own nation.

“They see it from the perspective that she is a Black American lady, despite the fact that she’s half Japanese, and he or she is talking out about an American drawback, so I nonetheless suppose there’s some wilful ignorance there,” Smith informed Reuters.

“That’s the type of mindset we are attempting to alter.”

Smith, who moved from the U.S. to Japan three years in the past, sees Osaka as the right individual to push by this variation.

“She is at a degree the place she is large worldwide and folks can’t assist however take heed to her,” she mentioned.

“I feel that is the right time to do what she is doing.”

JAPANESE SPONSORS

Following her 2018 U.S. Open triumph, Osaka attracted numerous sponsors, a lot of them large Japanese manufacturers, and have become the world’s highest paid feminine athlete, in line with Forbes.

These sponsors haven’t at all times been supportive of Osaka’s campaigning towards racial injustice, nonetheless.

A report in Japanese newspaper Mainichi on Friday cited unnamed sources at considered one of her sponsors as criticising her BLM stance, saying they would favor her to focus on tennis.

If some in Japan are struggling to return to phrases with Osaka’s activism, this was not obvious at Tokyo’s Godai tennis membership on Saturday morning.

“With the face masks, I understand a type of willpower that she is going through her matches with these ideas,” mentioned Chika Hyodo.

“I feel she is attempting to fulfil the function she was given as an athlete and I really feel superior about it. I help her.”

Osaka was a scorching subject of dialog on the membership because the youthful members had their weekly classes and there was no signal that her activism was having any affect on her recognition.

“She is a Japanese, robust feminine tennis participant,” mentioned 10-year-old Ai Uemura.

“I feel it’s nice that she entertains individuals.”

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