Tennis star Naomi Osaka, the world’s highest paid sportswoman, has said she will keep speaking out on racial injustice and ignore online trolls and critics telling her to stick to sport.
The two-time Grand Slam champion has faced a backlash on social media after throwing her support behind the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests after the killing of George Floyd last month.
Osaka, who has Japanese and Haitian parents but grew up and lives mostly in America, said she had no intention of backing down.
“I’m vocal because I believe in the movement and want to try to use my platform to facilitate change,” Osaka said.
“George Floyd’s murder and the situation generally in America has had a big impact on me. Being silent is never the answer. Everyone should have a voice in the matter and use it.”
The world number 10 added: “I probably shouldn’t read all the trolling but it’s hard to avoid. I’m more sad for them than myself. To be so hateful and ignorant can’t be an easy way to live life.
“We have been trying for hundreds of years and a change is long overdue.
“I do think this time there is a different feel and energy, and the protests are so far-reaching. There have even been BLM marches in Japan. That makes me so happy.
“So, I’m hopeful for change, I’ll keep campaigning for change, and I demand a better future for the next generation.”
Much of the criticism she has faced has come from Japanese accounts and on Wednesday Ms Osaka made it clear she has no problem with the country as a whole, calling it an “amazing place”.
Many sportspeople have supported the growing anti-racist movement, including England footballers Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho, and a host of US sports stars such as basketball’s LeBron James.
Osaka has joined BLM protests in Minneapolis and in Los Angeles, where she lives.
Her fellow tennis player, Coco Gauff, told a rally in Florida: “If you are choosing silence, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.”
Another American tennis player, Taylor Townsend, has said she regularly gets mistaken for other female black players.
She said: “It’s so many more, but I’ve had people argue with me to tell me that I’m Coco Gauff.
“I’m not Coco Gauff, but all of us look the same, all of us are built the same, everybody sees a black person and they assume that it’s Venus or Serena (Williams) or Sloane (Stephens). I’ve been literally all of them. Down the list. Except for myself.”
On Tuesday, Japanese public broadcaster NHK had to apologise for an animated video aimed at explaining the US protests which sparked outrage for its depiction of black Americans.
Osaka retweeted the video with a GIF expressing bewilderment.
George Floyd was laid to rest in his home town of Houston on Tuesday.
He was killed in Minneapolis on 25 May after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes despite him repeatedly saying he could not breathe.
:: Race and Revolution: Is Change Going to Come?
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