Naomi Osaka joins walkout after Jacob Blake shooting, skipping semifinal at Western & Southern Open

Naomi Osaka, like countless other teams and athletes across the country, is walking out in protest of the Jacob Blake shooting.

Osaka announced on Twitter on Wednesday night that she will not play in her semifinal match against Elise Mertens at the Western & Southern Open in Ohio on Thursday.

“Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman,” Osaka wrote, in part. “And as a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis.”

Western & Southern Open suspends play

Hours after Osaka’s announcement, the Western & Southern Open opted to suspend play for the day on Thursday entirely.

“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 sport’s governing bodies said in a statement. “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, August 27. Play will resume on Friday, August 28.”

It’s unclear if Osaka will decide to participate in her semifinal match on Friday.

Osaka latest to walk out

The Milwaukee Bucks did not take the court in Game 5 of their opening-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday afternoon, something that sparked a widespread walkout.

The Bucks did so after Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot multiple times in the back by police as he tried to get into his car on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin — which sits about 40 minutes south of Milwaukee.

Video of the incident was captured and shared widely on social media, which drew widespread condemnation both from inside the sports world and out. An attorney for the Blake family said that three of his children were in the car at the time he was shot, too.

All six NBA teams slated to play on Wednesday night opted to sit out in protest, and were joined by several MLB teams — including the Milwaukee Brewers — in solidarity. All six WNBA teams who were scheduled to play also walked out, as did every MLS team competing.

Osaka, who is currently ranked No. 10 in the world, said the latest shooting has left her “exhausted.”

“I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sports I consider that a step in the right direction,” the 22-year-old wrote. “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?”

Osaka reached the semifinals after beating Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka has joined the walkout and won't compete in her Western & Southern Open semifinal match. (AP/Frank Franklin II)

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