New York – Fourth-seeded Naomi Osaka reached the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday and withdrew a few hours later in a call for racial justice that quickly garnered support from other players. Soon after, the whole tournament was put on hold for a day
The last Top 10 seed in the women’s bracket joined professional athletes in basketball, baseball and soccer in demanding change after Jacob Blake was shot by police.
Osaka tweeted that as a Black woman, she feels compelled to pull out of the tournament to put a focus on the issue of police shooting Black people.
“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,” she tweeted. “Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.
“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?”
Her move quickly got support from other players on the tour.
Sloane Stephens retweeted the message and added: “Say it louder! Proud of you” and in a separate tweet added, #Proud of all the sports teams and athletes taking a stand tonight #BLM”
After reaching the semifinals late Wednesday, Milos Raonic said the ATP and WTA should consider a joint action that goes beyond a small group of players.
“I think real disruption, that’s what makes change, and I think a lot of real disruption is caused by affecting people in a monetary way and can force some kind of change,” he said. “I’m hoping at least we on the men’s tour as well as the women’s, we band together and we show support.”
A few hours later, the whole tournament was put on hold 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 USTA, ATP Tour, and WTA have decided to recognize this moment in time by pausing tournament play at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday, Aug. 27,” the three organizations said in a statement.
Osaka beat No. 12 Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 on Wednesday afternoon to reach the semifinals. She was scheduled to play No. 14 Elise Mertens.
NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer games were called off Wednesday as athletes demanded racial justice. The dramatic series of moves began when the Milwaukee Bucks — the NBA’s team from Wisconsin, the state where Blake was shot by police — didn’t take the floor for their playoff game against the Magic.