National / Social Issues

Japanese comedians apologize for racist joke about Naomi Osaka needing 'bleach'

AFP-JIJI

A Japanese comedy duo apologized after reportedly making a racist quip that tennis star Naomi Osaka, of Japanese and Haitian heritage, needed to pick up some “bleach.”

The relatively unknown female comedy pairing A Masso and their management firm released the apology on Tuesday after a skit referring to the young tennis star made news.

The pair reportedly suggested Osaka needed “bleach,” and said the 21-year-old former world No. 1 was “too sunburned,” during a live performance on Sunday.

The duo — whose members call themselves “Kano” and “Murakami” — issued an apology, saying that they had been “ignorant” and “hurtful.”

“We apologize for our failure to supervise A Masso, who made remarks that entirely lacked consideration,” their management firm, Watanabe Entertainment, added in a statement.

Osaka is a household name in Japan and her every move is followed feverishly by local media, particularly when she is in the country of her birth.

She is the face of several leading Japanese brands, including the airline ANA, and “Naomi-chan”— as she is affectionately known — was the main attraction at last week’s Pan Pacific Open in Osaka, which she won.

But she has faced controversies over her dual heritage in a nation that has been traditionally racially homogeneous, as well as scrutiny for her imperfect Japanese-language skills — though others insist it adds to her charm.

In January, her sponsor, Nissin Foods, known for its cup noodles, was accused of “whitewashing” for an anime-style advertisement that depicted Osaka with pale skin.

Nissin Foods said Osaka had approved the ad but pulled it after a media firestorm.