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Sponsor of Naomi Osaka retracts ad videos over skin color dispute

This photo taken from the YouTube channel of the Nissin Foods group shows anime characters featuring tennis players Kei Nishikori (L) and Naomi Osaka in a video advertisement. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A Japanese food company which is a sponsor of 2018 U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka removed video advertisements from YouTube on Wednesday following a dispute over the skin color of a character featuring the tennis star.

Nissin Foods Holdings Co. created two pieces of animated video aimed at promoting its signature product Cup Noodle featuring characters of Osaka as well as Kei Nishikori, another Japanese tennis player the Tokyo company supports.

But Nissin chose to stop running them at the request of Osaka's management agency in the United States following controversy in which some questioned Nissin's creations, saying the color of Osaka's character was lightened.

Nissin denied it had intended to make the skin color white and apologized for having caused confusion.

"We will be more mindful of the issue of diversity," an official of the company said.

The dispute emerged as Osaka, a U.S.-based 21-year-old athlete whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese, advanced to the semifinals of the Australian Open.

According to the official, Nissin consulted with the Japanese arm of Osaka's agency in making the anime pieces but failed to communicate properly with its U.S. parent.

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