Western & Southern Open Paused as Naomi Osaka Says She Won't Play in a Jacob Blake Boycott
"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," Naomi Osaka said on Twitter
The Japanese tennis champ, 22, announced her decision Wednesday night on Twitter, just several hours before the tournament announced it was pausing play 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 said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
"Hello, as many of you are aware I was scheduled to play my semifinals match tomorrow," the pro athlete wrote on Twitter. "However, before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. 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."
"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 explained. "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, who defeated Anett Kontaveit in Wednesday's quarterfinals, was slated to play Elise Mertens in the semifinal match on Thursday.
The Western & Southern Open will resume on Friday, and Osaka has now said she will compete.
"As you know, I pulled out of the tournament yesterday in support of racial injustice and continued police violence," Osaka said in a statement. "I was (and am) ready and prepared to concede the match to my opponent. However, after my announcement and lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA, I have agreed at their request to play on Friday. They offered to postpone all matches until Friday and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement."
Osaka's decision comes alongside an array of other pro athletes, including players from the NBA, WNBA, MLB, and MLS, that are boycotting their respective sports in the wake of Blake's death.
On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks’ said they would no longer be competing in Game 5 against the Orlando Magic. Bucks owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens, and Jamie Dinan said in a later statement later that they "wholeheartedly agreed" with the players' decision not to play.
"We fully support our players and the decision they made," said the joint statement, obtained by PEOPLE. "Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them. The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us. Our players have done that and we will continue to stand alongside them and demand accountability and change."
The WNBA also postponed Wednesday's games, while players from the MLB and the MLS announced they would be following suit.
Blake, 29, was shot in the back by police officers on Sunday in front of three of his children. His family said Tuesday that he has been paralyzed from the waist down.
The shooting of Blake has prompted protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Two people were killed and a third was injured on Tuesday night when a gunman opened fire on demonstrators. A 17-year-old was arrested on Wednesday facing charges for the shooting.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.;