JAPAN: NAOMI OSAKA, THE TENNIS SUPERSTAR WITH A HEART AS BIG AS HER SERVE

MATEO VALLES QUINTANA WRITES — No one can question her athletic achievements, but her actions off the court have brought her even more media attention.

Naomi Osaka, the 22-year-old Black and Japanese athlete who quickly became one of the top tennis players in the world, has a remarkable WTA player profile. At 20, she won her first Grand-Slam title at the 2018 U.S. Open. Following her second Grand-Slam title at the 2019 Australian Open she reached the world no.1 ranking at 21 years of age. Currently, she is ranked no. 3 in the world.

She does not shy away from the political spotlight. Following the death of Breonna Taylor earlier this year, Naomi wore seven different masks bearing the names of seven different victims of racial injustice during her warm-ups at this year’s U.S. Open. A couple of months before, she flew to Minneapolis to protest George Floyd’s death on the very streets where he took his last breath. Naomi has spoken out against racial injustice repeatedly with the hope of bringing knowledge and awareness to the issue.

Another issue she is passionate about-when it came to what country the young athlete would play for in the Tokyo Olympics, she decided to give up her U.S. citizenship and represent Japan. She is clearly not afraid to speak her mind and use her platform to bring awareness to the issues she is most passionate about.

In today’s society, athletes are more or less national heroes. Naomi Osaka is the clearest example of this. She has not waged a media stunt or marketing campaign. This is simply a young woman advocating for racial justice and a more accepting world, who has access to fans and critics worldwide. She wants to inspire and represent those who are marginalized, just as she, a mixed- race athlete, has suffered.

There is, though, a counter argument: That the job of the athlete is to play sports, not to comment on politics or the state of our country. This is an understandable point of view; Naomi herself gave the best rebuttal in an interview with WSJ Magazine: “I hate when random people say athletes shouldn’t get involved with politics and just entertain…Firstly, this is a human rights issue. Secondly, what gives you more right to speak than me? By that logic, if you work at Ikea you are only allowed to talk about [furniture]?”

Despite all of her accomplishments, her fans are most excited about her future. As a 22-year-old with three Grand Slam titles and a commitment to human rights, Naomi Osaka’s future is bright, both on and off the court.

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