Naomi Osaka is playing exceptionally well this week in New York at the Western and Southern Open, but the world No. 10 pressed paused to address more important matters.
Following the shooting of Jacob Blake, the sports world collectively united in sitting out of their respective games and matches in order to stand up for equality. Among the athletes to voice their frustration was tennis' own Naomi Osaka.
"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," Osaka wrote.
The two-time major champion did indeed spark a conversation within the sport. The WTA would shortly show support for Osaka by pausing all of Thursday's action, and joined her in taking a stance against racial inequality.
The Western & Southern Open, ATP and USTA would all recognize the moment and stand by Osaka. Along with the tours, WTA founder and 12-time Grand Slam champion Billie Jean King commended the 22-year-old for speaking out.
A brave and impactful move by @naomiosaka, in support of the protest movement moving through the sports world. She was to play in the semis of the @cincytennis tomorrow. Athletes using their platforms for good means so much. Don’t remain silent. #BlackLivesMatter #standup #speakout #endracism #BLM Posted @withregram • @australianopen Naomi Osaka withdrew from the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday in protest against "the continued genocide of Black people at the hands of police".
"A brave and impactful move by Naomi Osaka in support of the protest movement moving through the sports world," King wrote. "Athletes using their platforms for good means so much. Don’t remain silent.
King has always used her voice to demand change. In the 1970's, women were placed significantly lower on the totem pole, often placed on non-show courts while competing for far less prize money. But because King and eight of her peers took a powerful stance for change by signing with the new Virginia Slims Tour, the WTA could become what it is today. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Original Nine.
During Thursday's pause, former USTA president Katrina Adams literally jumped for equality.
Adams spent her Thursday afternoon skydiving for a vital purpose of spreading the importance of voting and celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment.
Current players such as Serena Williams, Jeremy Chardy and Nick Kyrgios also shared messages around the Black Lives Matter Movement.
"I stand with you, and all the people in the fight against racism. It is an evil that no sport or society is truly immune from," Kyrgios wrote.
Actress Taraji P. Henson, Osaka's boyfriend YBN Cordae, Coco Gauff and Chris Eubank showed their support in the comments section on Instagram, while CoCo Vandeweghe, Sloane Stephens and more retweeted her statement on Twitter.
Osaka may have assumed that her decision not to play would have no impact, but the young champion is creating waves of conversation that are ultimately steering towards change. After consulting with the WTA and USTA, she will take the court on Friday for her semifinal against Elise Mertens.