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Tennis star Naomi Osaka all-in on Black Lives Matter movement: Reuters

Undated file photo shows tennis star Naomi Osaka.(Kyodo)
People stage a rally on police brutality against visible minorities in Tokyo's Shibuya area on June 6, 2020, following the May 25 police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Naomi Osaka is determined her voice will be heard on the subject of racial injustice, the tennis player said in an interview with Reuters published Wednesday.

    Osaka, the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, faced backlash online after encouraging people to join a Black Lives Matter protest in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was allegedly murdered by police in Minneapolis last month.

    Despite being told to "stay in her lane" and to "stick to sports," the former world No. 1 ranked women's singles player and two-time Grand Slam champion said she had no intention of staying silent.

    "I'm vocal because I believe in the movement and want to try to use my platform to facilitate change," Osaka told Reuters.

    "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."

    While taking Floyd into custody, a white police officer pinned the unarmed black man's neck to the road for almost nine minutes while fellow officers looked on and bystanders filmed and pleaded for his release.

    Floyd later died, sparking protests against police brutality and racial inequality across the United States and others in solidarity around the world.

    The 22-year-old Osaka told Reuters she joined a march in Minneapolis and attended other Black Lives Matters protests in Los Angeles, where she lives. She has lived and trained in the United States since she was three years old.

    Osaka's voice carries weight due to her sporting prowess, 1.1 million followers on Instagram and more than 527,000 followers on Twitter.

    She has not shied away from addressing the issue of racism in Japan, either.

    Earlier in the week, she drew attention to a much-derided animated video posted by Japan's national broadcaster NHK which attempted to explain the social unrest in the United States.

    The video drew widespread fire for relying on problematic racial stereotypes and depictions while giving, at best, a naive representation of the issues.

    "I know I've been attacking a lot of racist Japanese tweets the last few days but Japan is actually a really amazing place," she wrote on Twitter.

    "I really don't want to give the misconception that the entire country is racist, they just have a few bad apples like everyone else."

    With $37.4 million in prize money and endorsements over the past year, Osaka was named the highest-earning female athlete in 2020 by Forbes.

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