Naomi Osaka, The Highest-Paid Female Athlete, Has Withdrawn From A Tennis Match In Protest Of The Shooting Of Jacob Blake

    "Before I am [an] athlete, I am a black woman."

    Naomi Osaka has joined a number of walkouts being staged in the sporting world, withdrawing from an upcoming tennis match to highlight her support of the Black Lives Matter movement after the shooting of Jacob Blake.

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    On Monday, footage emerged of 29-year-old Blake being shot in the back several times after walking away from police officers in the Wisconsin city of Kenosha. / Via Twitter: @nolimitchrizi

    Family members of Blake revealed that he was in a stable condition after surgery.

    "Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in front of his children," Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said in a press conference. "This wasn't an accident. This wasn't bad police work. This felt like some sort of vendetta being taken out on a member of our community. The officer's deadly actions attempted to take a person's life in broad daylight."

    The shooting sparked protests as hundreds took to the streets of Kenosha to demand justice.

    The scene currently in #Kenosha. Hundreds are marching in response to Kenosha police shooting and wounding 29-year-old Jacob Blake yesterday.

    The protests quickly spread into the world of sport, as teams across the NBA, WNBA, and MLB called off games and sat out of upcoming matches.

    Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images

    And Naomi Osaka, the highest-paid female athlete in the world, was quick to join the protests, posting a statement across social media that she would not be playing an upcoming semifinal match in New York.

    Matthew Stockman / Getty Images

    Osaka had been the favourite to win the Western & Southern Open — a warmup tournament for the US Open — after dominating her previous matches and becoming the highest seed left in the draw following the departure of Serena Williams.

    Al Bello / Getty Images

    But, in a statement posted after winning her quarter-final match, Osaka said: "Before I am [an] athlete, I am a black woman."

    "Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach," the statement went on. "When will it ever be enough?"

    Following Osaka's words, the Women's Tennis Association released a joint statement, along with the men's ATP Tour and USTA, supporting a pause in play and announcing that all scheduled semifinal matches would be postponed until Friday.

    Tennis legend and activist Billie Jean King was among those to voice their support of Osaka's decision, calling it a "brave and impactful move" before encouraging others not to remain silent.

    A brave & impactful move by ⁦⁦@naomiosaka⁩, in support of the protest movement moving through the sports world. She was to play in the semis tomorrow. Athletes using platforms for good means so much. Don’t remain silent. #BlackLivesMatter

    Tennis stars Coco Gauff and Sloane Stephens also left comments of support under Osaka's post, while Taraji P. Henson and Lewis Hamilton offered words of encouragement.

    Fellow semifinalist Milos Raonic, who was due to play Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday at the same tournament, also supported Osaka's decision, saying: "I think it's the right next step because things do need to change."

    Al Bello / Getty Images

    "We're all humans. We're all equal, but we're definitely not being treated that way," he added. "That's tragic, unfair, and unacceptable."

    Andy Murray also came out in support of Osaka, reposting her statement to his Instagram story alongside three thumbs up emojis.

    Osaka's statement follows her recent interview with the Wall Street Journal where she opened up about attending her first protest to support the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd.

    BuzzFeed News has reached out to reps of Naomi Osaka for further comment.

    Ben Henry is a celebrity reporter for BuzzFeed UK and is based in London.

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