Bombshell protest brings tennis to a halt
Japan's Naomi Osaka sent shockwaves throughout the tennis world by withdrawing from her WTA Western & Southern Open semi-final in New York to protest the police shooting of an unarmed black man in America, and the entire sport soon followed suit.
Osaka, a two-time grand slam champion, was to face Belgian Elise Mertens tomorrow but pulled out to highlight the scourge of racial injustice.
"Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. And as a black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis," Osaka posted in a statement on Twitter.
"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."
The WTA, ATP and USTA released a joint statement shortly after saying play would be paused for a day.
"As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States," the statement read.
"The USTA, ATP Tour, and WTA have decided to recognise this moment in time by pausing tournament play at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday, August 27. Play will resume on Friday, August 28."
The move comes in the wake of African-American Jacob Blake being shot on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks boycotting their scheduled playoff game today.
All of Thursday's NBA playoff games were eventually postponed and Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and Women's NBA clubs in th US followed suit before Osaka became the trailblazer in tennis.
"Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach," Osaka said.
"I'm exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I'm extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again.
"When will it ever be enough?"
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'THIS IS HUGE': TENNIS WORLD REACTS
Osaka's groundbreaking stance in the tennis world sparked plenty of reaction as people praised her - and the sport - for taking a stand.
Shortly after Osaka's statement, teenage superstar Coco Gauff tweeted "JUSTICE FOR #JacobBlake" while Canadian star Milos Raonic said: "Real disruption, I think that's what makes change … to really make a difference, it has to be a banding together of athletes."
World No. 37 Sloane Stephens responded to Osaka by tweeting: "Say it louder! Proud of you." Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou wrote "good job" and American star Christopher Eubanks said: "@naomiosaka You are truly amazing!"
Tennis writer Reem Abulleil said she had "so much respect for her (Osaka) and her decision", while fellow journalist Nikhila Makker added: "This is huge. Look what Naomi Osaka has accomplished.
"This is a massive decision for a player in an individual sport like tennis. Kudos to Osaka for her stance and my respect for her only grows by the day."
Veteran New York Times sports journalist Christopher Clarey tweeted: "Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures."
Blake was shot seven times in the back by police as he attempted to get into a car containing his three children.
Protests have erupted in Kenosha since the shooting, with two people killed after a man opened fire on demonstrators with an assault rifle on Tuesday.
Issues of police violence and systemic racism were raised in May by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, who died after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee upon Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes.
Originally published as Bombshell protest brings tennis to a halt