The WTA Tour has always had trailblazing women leading the way. And Naomi Osaka has joined the esteemed company of tennis icons like Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and the Williams sisters, among others, by using her platform to advocate for issues that go beyond the sport.
The 24-year old, who was a shy young woman during her early years on the tour, has found a way to use her voice to make an impact as her career progressed. So here's a look at some of the off-court activities that have made Naomi Osaka a global icon.
Naomi Osaka takes a stand against racial injustice
Last year, the issue of racial discrimination and injustice took centerstage in the US. The matter reached the boiling point after police brutality against members of the minority African-American community in several cities. At the 2020 Cincinnati Open, Osaka decided to withdraw from her semifinal match to protest against this violence, but the tournament organizers decided to pause play for a day in order to support her and the movement.
She also attended protests that were part of the Black Lives Matter movement. At the 2020 US Open, she wore a different mask every day with a different name to commemorate the victims of police brutality and bring the issue of racism into the global spotlight.
Naomi Osaka makes mental health mainstream in sports
Prior to the start of this year's French Open, Naomi Osaka decided to skip the mandatory press conferences that players are required to do, citing the damaging effect they've had on her mental health. Her decision would lead to a huge debate and spark a conversation regarding the mental health of athletes.
Many sportspeople have praised her for taking this step. Some have even decided to do the same and take a step back from their careers. Osaka's decision has already set changes in motion -- the WTA allowed Iga Swiatek to opt out of an in-person press conference.
Naomi Osaka donates to Haiti's relief efforts
The 24-year old has always been proud of and embraced her multiracial identity. She's connected to her Haitian and Japanese roots, so when a massive earthquake hit Haiti, she was quick to contribute to the relief efforts.
The four-time Grand Slam winner pledged her prize money from the 2021 Cincinnati Open to help rebuild the country.
Naomi Osaka aims to increase the participation of girls in sports
In an effort to improve the lives of girls through the medium of sports, Naomi Osaka partnered with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good to launch Play Academy. The initiative aims to provide girls with the opportunity to fulfill their athletic dreams and reach their full potential by way of sports.
Naomi Osaka backs efforts to address gender inequity
The 24-year old recently partnered with Google Org in their latest initiative to address the issue of gender inequity. The "Google Org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls" aims to bring about systematic change and improvement in the lives of women around the world by providing funding to various organizations who in turn help women prosper economically.
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With her activism off court, Naomi Osaka continues to follow the path of athletes before her who have been vocal about social issues beyond their game.