Reuters: Tennis star Osaka Naomi “a Jesse Owens of Japan”. I don’t think the comparison is apt, yet. She should also speak out for Japan’s Visible Minorities.


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Hi Blog.  A recent article in Reuters portrays Japanese-Haitian-American tennis star Osaka Naomi as “a Jesse Owens of Japan”. Article first, then my comment:


Osaka ‘a Jesse Owens of Japan’ for racial injustice stand
Reuters, September 12, 2020 By Jack Tarrant


TOKYO (Reuters) – Naomi Osaka has been the dominant storyline of the 2020 U.S. Open, both for on-court performances that mean she will be playing in Saturday’s final and for her vocal support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Before each match, Osaka has worn a mask bearing the name of a different Black American in a powerful symbol of her support for the fight against racial injustice in the United States.

Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and Haitian father, may represent Japan but she lives in Los Angeles and has joined several BLM protests across the country this year.

Although her focus has been on racial injustice over the last few months, the 23-year-old has long been a symbol for change in Japan.

Osaka is one of the country’s most recognised personalities and has become the face of a changing Japan coming to terms with challenges to its self-image as a racially homogenous society.

Baye McNeil, a prominent Japan-based African-American author and activist, sees Osaka as the next in a line of great Black athlete activists such as boxer Muhammad Ali and sprinter Jesse Owens.

“Muhammad Ali… put his career on the line in order to protest things that he thought were unjust or just wrong. And I think Naomi is on that path,” McNeil told Reuters from Yokohama.

“She is joining a community that has a history, has a legacy, going all the way back beyond Jesse Owens. In fact, what she is doing is very in line with Jesse Owens. Not necessarily for her impact on America but on Japan.

“I kind of think of her as a Jesse Owens of Japan.”


McNeil, who moved to Japan 16 years ago, believes Osaka and other biracial athletes like basketball player Rui Hachimura and Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish can be catalysts for change just by competing.

“It doesn’t even require them to say anything, you just look at them and say ‘Oh my God, this is a Black woman representing Japan,’” he said.

“This is something Japan has never faced before and I am not sure how exactly they are going to resolve this, or how they are going to modify the narrative, but some modification is required.”

Jaime Smith, who helped organise June’s BLM protest in Tokyo, thinks many Japanese people do not see Osaka’s activism as relating to their own country.

“They see it from the viewpoint that she is a Black American woman, even though she’s half Japanese, and she is speaking out about an American problem, so I still think there’s some wilful ignorance there,” Smith told Reuters.

“That’s … the kind of mindset we are trying to change.”

Smith, who moved from the U.S. to Japan three years ago, sees Osaka as the perfect person to push through this change.

“She is at a point where she is huge worldwide and people can’t help but listen to her,” she said.

“I think this is the perfect time to do what she is doing.”


Following her 2018 U.S. Open triumph, Osaka attracted a large number of sponsors, many of them big Japanese brands, and became the world’s highest paid female athlete, according to Forbes.

These sponsors have not always been supportive of Osaka’s campaigning against racial injustice, however.

A report in Japanese newspaper Mainichi on Friday [see below] cited unnamed sources at one of her sponsors as criticising her BLM stance, saying they would prefer her to concentrate on tennis.

If some in Japan are struggling to come to terms with Osaka’s activism, this was not apparent at Tokyo’s Godai tennis club on Saturday morning.

“With the face masks, I perceive a kind of determination that she is facing her matches with these thoughts,” said Chika Hyodo.

“I think she is trying to fulfil the role she was given as an athlete and I feel awesome about it. I support her.”

Osaka was a hot topic of conversation at the club as the younger members had their weekly lessons and there was no sign that her activism was having any impact on her popularity.

“She is a Japanese, strong female tennis player,” said 10-year-old Ai Uemura.

“I think it’s great that she entertains people.”

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: What a way to end an article: With an interview with a ten-year-old and some unqualified stranger at some tennis club, as somehow representative of “Japan’s reaction”. That’s some lazy research and poor social science there, Reuters.

Now, as far as Osaka’s activism is concerned, I support the fact that she is bringing to light racial injustice, and is willing to take a stand in public to do so.

However, remember that this is a stand against racial injustice in another country. Not in Japan. This is an easier target because a) Japan has long taught about racism in other countries (particularly America’s) as part of a narrative that racism “happens elsewhere, not here”, so this unfortunately plays into Japan’s grander deflection strategy; and b) this protest doesn’t imperil her sponsorship in Japan, where her money is coming from.

Yet racism, as this blog and my research have covered for more than a quarter century, is alive and “practiced undisturbed” (according to the United Nations) in Japan. That’s worth protesting. So is racism in America, of course. But there are plenty of high-profile voices involved in that already. What is sorely needed is someone standing up for the equal and nondiscriminative treatment of, for example, Japan’s Visible Minorities (a group Osaka herself is a member of).

Others have tried, such as VM Japanese beauty queens Miyamoto Ariana and Yoshikawa Priyanka, and their careers in Japan suffered as a result. Osaka Naomi, as has argued before, has a stronger immunity card to criticize Japan (as long as she keeps winning) if she so chooses.

It’s still unclear she will ever choose to. The last big opportunity she had, when her sponsor Nissin “whitewashed” her in one of their ads, she declined to make an issue of. (Imagine the reaction, however, if an American advertiser had done something so stupid.) That’s an enormous disappointment, but indicative of her priorities. And a bit ironic in light of how Japanese society treated her multiethnic family.

Finally, comparisons with Jesse Owens and Muhammad Ali? I’ll let others who are more qualified to shape that narrative speak more to that. But just consider Jesse Owens’ history: a person who protested the segregation and lack of sponsorship he received in his home country of America (to the point of repeatedly, and poignantly, pointing out that Hitler acknowledged his achievements more than President Roosevelt did).  However, his legacy has been portrayed more in my history books as a counternarrative to White Supremacism in Nazi Germany. That in itself, of course, is very welcome, but it’s not quite the whole story.

As for Muhammad Ali, there’s a lot to unpack there because he did so much, but remember that he was suspended from boxing during the best years of his career for protesting the Vietnam War and refusing to be drafted. Again, protesting racial injustice in his country of sponsorship. That’s real sacrifice and heroism.

My point is that the more one tries to apply their cases to Osaka’s case, the more inapt the comparisons become. Being in a position of “it doesn’t even require them to say anything” is not what happened in either Owens’ or Ali’s case.  Especially when you consider that Owens’ and Ali’s protests were more directed towards their country of sponsorship. That’s not what Osaka is doing here.

Again, I praise Osaka Naomi for taking a public stance against racism in the United States. But let’s keep things in perspective, and not let praise become unqualified gush.

And let me suggest she speak out on behalf of her fellow Visible Minorities in Japan too.  Not just dismiss racism in Japan as an issue of “a few bad apples” (which can be — and has been — applied to any society as an excuse for racist behavior). Debito Arudou, Ph.D.


The Mainichi article cited by Reuters above:

Japanese sponsors of tennis star Naomi Osaka not 100% on board with anti-racism actions
September 11, 2020 (Mainichi Japan)

TOKYO — The anti-racism stance taken by tennis player Naomi Osaka on the courts of the U.S. Open has drawn widespread attention from the public and elicited differing responses from her sponsors in Japan and elsewhere.

Starting with her first match, Osaka entered the court wearing a black mask with the name of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed at the hands of police, on it as a call for an end to racial discrimination.

“I don’t think she needed to do that while she’s fighting her way to the top. If possible, we’d like her to attract more attention with her tennis skills,” said a source linked to a Japanese corporate sponsor of Osaka’s. “She’s taken on a leadership role as a Black person, and what she’s doing is great as a human being, but whether that will help raise the value of a corporate brand is another thing. There hasn’t been any impact in particular, but it’s not something we’re openly happy about.”

Another source linked to a different Japanese corporate sponsor said, “I think it’s wrong to bring the issue of racial discrimination and her trade, tennis, together.”

Meanwhile, one of her other sponsors, an American corporation, has reacted very differently. A person involved with the company said that in the U.S., it’s riskier not to say you take a stand against racial discrimination, because if you don’t say anything, you could be seen as being accepting it. They said that there are a lot of companies that uphold diversity and inclusion and also agree to help stop discrimination as part of their corporate principles.

After Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in late August, NBA teams boycotted games in protest of the incident, and MLB games were postponed due to players refusing to play. Naomi Osaka announced she was withdrawing from the Western & Southern Open semifinals — a qualifier for the U.S. Open — in protest. Soon thereafter, the tournament decided to postpone the match by a day in solidarity with the protesters, and Osaka decided she would play the next day, sending a strong message to the world.

In the NBA, where the majority of players are Black, actions taken to demand an end to racial discrimination are not uncommon. An official from a management company that has a contract with a Black NBA player explained that the top athletes have the strongest awareness that they must take the initiative to act as a representative of the Black community. And Black children, they said, dream of getting into the NBA, watching those top-tier athletes.

There are some compromises that Osaka, who was born to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, and grew up in the U.S. since she was three, is not willing to make.

“If I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction,” she wrote in her now-famous tweet.

Osaka arrived at the U.S. Open with seven masks, one for each round of the tournament, and each emblazoned with the name of a Black person who had been a victim of police violence. She’s worn six now.

What drives Osaka is her hope that people will get to know the victims better, and do what she can to prevent younger people from suffering from racial injustice.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Asatsuma, Sports News Department)

Japanese Version
なおみの人種差別抗議に国内外で温度差 スポンサーの微妙な事情
毎日新聞2020年9月11日 (excerpt)


Full article at

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38 comments on “Reuters: Tennis star Osaka Naomi “a Jesse Owens of Japan”. I don’t think the comparison is apt, yet. She should also speak out for Japan’s Visible Minorities.

  • Well, the Owens comparison is the words of Baye McNeil, not the journalist who wrote the article.
    As I and others have pointed out, Baye consistently fails to address Osaka’s reluctance to admit there is discrimination in Japan. Maybe this is because he is writing for the Japan Times, which is under war-crime denying right-wing management, so perhaps Baye is allowed to be black on the payroll only so long as he plays that favorite game of Japanese nationalists- pointing out how bad other countries are?

    Anyway, as far as I can see, Owens didn’t go to Germany and call the gestapo out over their treatment of Gypsies, homosexuals, communists and Jews, whilst at the same time saying that racism in America was ‘just a few bad apples’, did he?

    The comparison falls flat with Osaka. She’s a black sports person, that’s as far as it goes. Confusion and hypocrisy regarding which identity she’s using at any given moment makes it impossible to see her as anything other than a confused undereducated little girl.

    And Baye has got some explaining to do. Right now he’s just JT’s ‘token’.

    • GaijinLivesMatter says:

      To be fair to Baye, his previous article on the topic back in June
      was far-removed from the above characterization: “This is why you are seeing Black Lives Matters marches … here in purportedly racism-free Japan. Because Japan, trust us, you got racism coming out your butt!”

      Another Japan Times article from the same day
      included a screenshot from Baye’s Twitter that was, at least to my reading, more critical of the NHK in that instance than most of what one reads on this blog. (Not meaning to criticize but rather just to emphasize how inaccurate the above claim that Baye is only allowed remain on the JT payroll as long as he touts the nationalist line.)

      • GaijinLivesMatter says:

        Granted, the above quote was quite likely subject to, and altered as a result of, editorial oversight, since the phrase would almost certainly sound more natural as “coming out [your/the] ass”. The only other instances I could find of JT printing the “A-word” were a reader’s mail
        and an article on music that quoted it in a song lyric.

          • GaijinLivesMatter says:

            I doubt it. I came up with the slogan spontaneously earlier this year, assumed others had had the same idea, Googled it and saw some images of what was probably the same shirt. I’m not resentful of the idea that someone else came up with it before me, but I am amused by the fact that some of the shirts apparently on the market have the laughable Japanese translation “外国人 生命が 関係する”. Haven’t found any English shirts with my exact username, though, so I assume that guy in Suma had a custom shirt. Doing a Google Image search for “gaijin lives matter shirt” only brought up the Japanese one mentioned above and interestingly on the first page of results
            came up. It would be pretty awesome if would come out with a Gaijin Lives Matter T-shirt (or a Gaikokujin Lives Matter one if “gaijin” is a no-go).

            — It would. In fact, if anyone has already created them, I’m happy to broadcast.

  • Japan’s NJ residents face racist attacks due to ‘fear of Covid-19’.

    Hardly surprising when the Government of Japan is discriminating against NJ residents by denying them re-entry as a Covid risk.

    Anything to say about that Naomi Osaka? Just a few bad apples (in government)? No? Not a single word? Wow, you’re really so Japanese.

    • Loverilakkuma says:

      She’s definitely not alone on this issue, and not surprisingly, her understanding of social issues in Japanese society is really sketchy. I guess anyone who grew up overseas with a brief life experience in Japan would likely see Japan as she does. I don’t think it’s just the matter of her limited knowledge and understanding of Japanese society. How western media portrays Japan in the form of cultural decorum is also taking a role in shaping people’s understanding of its society.

    • Interesting idea; qualification for being Japanese is to not speak out against discrimination, not make waves, defer to Erai Oyaji, etc.

      I can see this as a definition of “Japanese” for some people. This returnee J-guy in the office said our Japanese boss was not “Japanese” because he scolded him “directly and harshly” and this doesnt qualify as in his Nissei tradtionalist experienced based definition of what constitutes “Japaneseness” .
      A bit like Victorian British values but taken to microcosmic extremes like hand gesutes, the way you stand, the sounds you make etc.

  • That last line says it all. “I think its great that she entertains people.” Even though it was uttered by a 10 year old, it gives insight into the majority of Japanese who view “others” meaning NJ as just a source of brevity and entertainment, not worthy of being taken seriously and certainly not worthy of equal treatment. One only has to look at the examples of foreign “talent” on Japanese television who are forced to conform to stereotypes and put on ridiculous costumes just to be “entertaining.” I can t think of any who s views are taken seriously except to give a “foreign” perspective on whatever topic is being discussed. Take the issue of compulsory mask wearing. One foreign guy on a network morning broadcast recently (who goes by the name of Jason) stated that wearing a mask just because everybody else is wearing one is “dangerous.” His comment I am sure went totally over the heads of his fellow panelists. You could tell by the look of WTF? on their faces. And these are supposedly educated intelligent people!

    • GaijinLivesMatter says:

      Just to be clear, this is in answer to your question about foreigners “who s views are taken seriously except to give a “foreign” perspective on whatever topic is being discussed”. I have no idea who the anti-masker you are talking about is.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I was really disappointed in the Mainichi article. It’s not even qualified as a journalism for spreading a gossip highlighting comments by unidentified Japanese sponsors. I felt like I was reading a recent sensationalized article written by Jeffery Goldberg (editor of the Atlantic) on ‘unsubstantiated’ Trump’s derogatory comments on US troops (calling them ‘losers’). What’s considered highly believable to many people is fundamentally different from what is actually true.

    As a Pulitzer prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald says, “. . .[C]onflating the crucial journalistic concept of “confirmation” with “hearing the same idle gossip” or “unproven assertions” is a huge disservice. It is an instrument of propaganda, not reporting. And its use has repeatedly deceived rather than informed the public.”

    Regarding the issue, both Japanese and western mainstream media are still missing the point over their portrait of her for understanding of racial issue across cultural border. Baye McNeil and likeminded journalists should invest more on the issue of Japanese cultural decorum for skewed understanding of racism and social injustice.

  • Ms. Osaka lost me when she said there is a “genocide” against black people in the U.S. (she literally used that word).

    It will be interesting to see if the “impact” which is supposedly occuring in Japan is transient in nature or sticks. I fully recognize the issues towards foreigners in Japan but from what a few of my black friends have told me it seems to be exponentially difficult for them (one of them is from Ghana and has a PHD in Chemical Engineering and works for a major chemical manufacturer).

    As always; any good that can or might come of this would be appreciated but I am not going to hold my breath.

    – Source on Osaka quote?

      • Mr. Di Griz and David…thanks for getting those out there. I am quite certain my thoughts would be unpopular or unwelcome with many in the U.S. these days but please hear me out as I am trying to tie this into the situation in Japan.

        It is not deniable that in the U.S. the biggest threat to black people are now young black men by an overwhelmingly large proportion. Perhaps institutional racism has played a large part in putting them in this position however I believe to start to have the conversation this fact needs to be identified and discussed honestly. Afterwards I think it would be alot easier to address the root cause of this issue.

        On the other hand in Japan the biggest risk to Japanese is overwhelmingly other Japanese. Living here and reading the Japanese news (in both English and Japanese) one thing I have noticed is a VERY steady and large increase in violent crime over the past 5 years. (stabbings, family members killing each other, etc.). This is now nearly a daily occurrance while it seems to have become even much more rare to see a foreigner involved in a crime.

        It is commendable Ms. Osaka is taking a stance however I think when discussing this matter and bringing Japan into the realm a huge dose of perpective is needed. It is really difficult to explain Ms. Osaka to Japanese as it is difficult for them to see these differences.

    • When she’s wearing her ‘American identity’ she’s so woke.
      When she’s wearing her ‘Japanese identity’ she speed forth exactly the same rubbish as every racist apologist.

      This got me thinking about identity politics and playing roles, being politically correct etc and how that dovetails with “tatemae”, which on another thread we found out was a post WW2 invention in duplicity.

      Images, Debord says, have supplanted genuine human interaction.

      Naomi is just playing a role. As a Japanese and an American sports/entertainer, she is equally adept at both.

  • To be fair, If I was in her position I wouldn’t bite the hand that feeds me either. First soak up all that delicious endorsement cash. When that dries up she may consider a different course. We will see.

    And in the meantime, I will continue my absurd behavior of not relying on the opinions of any sports star who is in the pocket of large corporations when opining on global race relations.

  • Well, if she doesn’t like the racism in America, maybe she should ‘go back to her own country’, which is Japan, right? She’s got Japanese citizenship and Japan doesn’t legally do dual-nationality. Or did she lie to the Japanese government and keep her US passport? In which case, thanks a bunch Osaka for not only reinforcing Japanese on NJ racism justification narratives for presenting racism as something that ‘white people do to non-whites’ but ALSO for feeding the myth that NJ are more likely to break Japanese laws.

    • No, because as part of her dual “role playing” in America she can stay and complain, but in Japan, as a Japanese, the accepted behaviour is to not complain but rather to stoically “gaman” or more lilely, not complain if it doesnt affect you directly. Which itself is a myth anyway, as “nihonjin wa urusai” but thats more about consumerist rights, not human rights.

      • Yeah, you’re right, but I’m just saying what right wingers and apologists say to foreigners in Japan and she is after all either a foreigner in America or she is breaking Japanese law.

    • I can’t blame Naomi there when most Japanese I speak to have never heard of Nippon Kaigi. While I understand the younger generations being ignorant as they have been the least educated historically, politicaly and socially since the end of WW2, what’s the excuse for the others?
      It’s interesting to hear Japanese people and the Japanese media cartels speak and write about Trump and the USA. Reactionary and conservative Japanese somehow turn ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ when dealing with these topics but have little to say but ignorant platitudes and defensiveness on Japan’s socio-political issues.
      Or they are downright scary when they are under 35, without irony praising ex PM Abe and new leader Suga, happily accepting more socio-political stagnation and systemic ignorance of Japan’s last 90 years or so. Most of them know zero about the reign of Taisho Emperor and his mental illness, political instability of that time and the growing fascist reaction against modernisation that was mostly due to western influence.
      In fact I’d say the majority of Japanese do not understand that their Emperor and Empress are actually more progressive than those politicians that supposedly support the Imperial Family and that includes the neo-right like Abe and the endless procession of neo-right including Governor Koike that dominate politics in Japan especially in Tokyo.
      From their careful public statements and actions such as having the ‘Kimi Ga Yo’ omitted from recent WW2 commemorative ceremonies, it seems the Emperor and Empress are in the unfortunate position of being relatively young and internationalised but stuck in the Jimento timewarp.
      At least Naomi Osaka has the real excuse here of spending most of her time in the USA and having little understanding of Japan and its society although she should certainly start educating herself on the country whose citizenship she made a big deal out of accepting. While probably keeping her American citizenship on the downlow.

      • I would agree with you, but Osaka wasn’t brought up in Japan, so she doesn’t have the excuse of having being educated and living in a society educated by ‘Confucian’ methods of education (You only need to remember what the teacher tells you), but she was brought up and educated in the USA which has a Socratic education system (you need to learn critical thinking) so she should know better.
        Except she never went to school because she was practicing tennis every day?

  • I suspect Debito will be addressing the complex nature of Nao chan in an eloquent SNA article shortly. She however is proving to be a very complex and confused individual.

    If I had to draw an illustration of her it would be one of her having one leg in Japan surrounded by money, sinking up to her knees in a quagmire of Japan Is Special, and one in the US sinking up to her knees in BLM protesters and fire.

    Very soon she will be up to her head in both.

  • I have been critical of Naomi Osaka before on this website’s comments and reasonably pointed out that she and Rui Hachimura seem to lack moral courage regarding the very real issue of racism in Japanese society.
    In one way Naomi’s sidestepping of the issue is more understandable as she grew up in the USA and received her life and tennis opportunities there. Apparently her Japanese is pre-elementary level. She really is an American culturally despite having a Japanese mother but let’s not forget her Japanese mother has spent significant years in the USA.
    Good for her in her activism as a Black woman who is also Japanese, and she is in the company of just about every giant corporation, the media and the entertainment industry as well as some in the general public. It is not difficult to be pro-BLM when US sponsors of events are falling over themselves to support it or to be seen to support it.
    However, just like Lebron James and Kyrie Irving and other Black sports players she will talk about anything except for China’s quite open policy of cultural and other genocide against Uyghars, Tibetans and others. As well as its destruction of democratic movements in Hong Kong and imprisonment of young activists such as Gladys Chow whom even the Abe Government openly supported.
    Nike is the sponsor of those Black sports stars and other celebrities and has a huge presence in the Chinese market. Nike gave millions of dollars to Colin Kaepernick and promotde him as a martyr of racism.
    Colin reaped huge financial benefits from other sources too after football clubs didn’t show interest in him following the endless arguments over his anthem protests. Protests I support so long as they are peaceful.
    Nike presents itself as ‘progressive’ but just like the corporate giants and the Black sports who receive huge paydays for wearing Nike, appearing in its ads and promoting it everywhere they go, it becomes silent very quickly when pro-democracy activists who are getting arrested for opinions are carted away to prison in the ‘new’ Hong Kong.
    Lebron, Kyrie, Kevin Durant and just about every top Black athlete will talk politics all day and voice opposition to the American President, politicians, public figures etc, etc, but when China’s govt became very publicly ugly in its words and actions towards the NBA because a member of Houston Rockets’ management team tweeted support for democracy in Hong Kong, they literally shut up and dribbled.
    The only consistent Black sports people I could see were Rob Parker, Chris Broussard and Jason Whitlock who are all sports commentators. Parker and Broussard come from the progressive side so it was welcome to hear them link the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong with supporting human rights everywhere including those of their own people and the right of Colin K to protest peacefully as a pro sports player.
    Rui Hachimura actually is more culpable than Naomi as he grew up in Japan and from honest accounts had a torrid time as one of a number of visibly black children of an African father and Japanese mother. Difficult experiences that should be heard in the socio-political atmosphere of the USA where he makes his living and in Japan when he is back home.
    Yet Rui shut up quickly, too. It is easy for him as well to be an activist in the USA in the NBA where this is actively encouraged by the administrators of the league as well as owners.
    I’ll start to respect Rui’s activism when he has the moral courage to front a media conference in Japan and say how the anti-racism movement is yes, relevant in Japan and yes, it is a myth that there is no racism in Japan because we are all Japanese.

    • GaijinLivesMatter says:

      You mean Agnes Chow? I was wondering if “Gladys Chow” was someone else, but Googling the name brought up a bunch of random social media pages for apparently non-notable individuals.

    • True, but one nitpick. “It is easy for him as well to be an activist in the USA in the NBA where this is actively encouraged by the administrators of the league as well as owners.”

      No, NBA kowtows to China like no other company. If the NBA even mentions the word Taiwan they have to make a public apology to the CCP. .

  • Yesp, I meant Agnes Chow, my bad.
    Regarding Baye McNeil’s off-target and mistakenly generous nod to Naomi Osaka as being comparable to Jesse Owens – that is wrong in so many ways that this would be a really long post if I started.
    I like Baye’s views but I just don’t understand where he is coming from here. Maybe he was trying to encourage Naomi to actually take a stand.
    If anybody knows Baye personally, please direct him to read the comments in this thread and others if he hasn’t already. Baye stands out usually as he refuses to close his eyes as a Black man to the reality of Japanese racism.
    He doesn’t give Japan a racism pass and he doesn’t express the skewed views about how much better Japan is than the USA because supposedly the racism here is simply because of ‘misunderstanding’ and ‘no systemic racism’, ‘one people’, ‘no familiarity with discrimination’ that I’ve heard from some African Americans here as well as people from other ethncities.
    Come on Baye, ask Naomi to step it up and stop gving false impressions of ‘a few bad apples’.

  • Nike getting slammed on social media in Japan for ‘the future isn’t waiting’ ad featuring 3 mixed heritage Japanese soccer players experiences of racism in Japan.

    Where’s Osaka? Doesn’t want to support these young athletes? After all, Nike is one of her sponsors…

    Oh yeah, she’s never lived in Japan, so she can’t relate to the experiences of the kids in the ad.

  • According to JT, Naomi Osaka is IN the ad. I didn’t spot her, but was watching on my phone.
    Interesting comment reported by JT;

    “Nowadays, you often see one or two people of different nationalities going to school perfectly peacefully. The one that’s prejudiced is Nike,” wrote one user named “hira1216.”

    No, ‘hira1216’, those ‘one or two people’ aren’t ‘different nationalities’, they are JAPANESE! I guess hira1216 doesn’t understand what racism is, so they can’t see it, and are responsible for perpetuating it.

  • Apparently, the definition of being a permanent resident of the US has changed…
    ‘ each part of her identity — Japanese, Haitian, raised for a time in the United States’.

    This kind of denial of reality begs the question; when will she reside in Japan or Haiti, and would she like to say anything about racism there?
    She seems to have an awfully large focus on racism in America for someone who was merely ‘raised there for some time’.

    Are journalists at the JT seriously not aware that she has never lived in Japan nor Haiti?

    —- That article is from the New York Times. The weasel wording is theirs.

  • Some takeaways from Osaka’s recent interview with Vogue:

    Leading By Example: How Naomi Osaka Became the People’s Champion
    December 11, 2020

    Full article at

    1) She lives in Beverly Hills, not Japan, and “cannot imaging settling anywhere else” but America. Quoting the article: “Although she has lived in the United States ever since [Osaka was three years old], Osaka represents Japan in tennis (a decision her parents made for her years ago) and will compete on the Japanese team at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. “I think I confuse people,” she says, “because some people label me, and they expect me to stick to that label. Since I represent Japan, some people just expect me to be quiet and maybe only speak about Japanese topics. I consider myself Japanese-Haitian-American. I always grew up with a little bit more Japanese heritage and culture, but I’m Black, and I live in America, and I personally didn’t think it was too far-fetched when I started talking about things that were happening here. There are things going on here that really scare me.” […] These days her sights are set no further than the Tokyo games, where she has the opportunity to bring home the first tennis gold medal in Japanese history. Of course, “home” is not exactly apt, since she lives in the United States and cannot imagine settling anywhere else. Tennis has a way of making the world feel smaller, even as Osaka has a way of enlarging tennis.”

    2) Tennis has a way of enlarging Osaka’s bank accounts too. “IN THE CALENDAR YEAR from June 2019 to June 2020, Osaka was the highest paid female athlete ever, according to Forbes, bringing in $37.4 million in combined prize money and endorsements and eclipsing Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams. In addition to Nike, her sponsors include Louis Vuitton, Mastercard, Beats, PlayStation, Airbnb, Nissan (cars), and Nissin (noodles), to name a handful. Last fall she collaborated on a clothing collection with Adeam, the Japanese-American fashion brand, and a high-top sneaker with Nike and Comme des Garçons. It may be the case that Osaka’s own multiracial and multinational heritage makes her not only a fitting brand ambassador to an increasingly multiracial and multinational world, but also the ideal emissary for reform in three dominions—the United States, Japan, and the world of tennis—that share an uncomfortable relationship to racial equality.[…] Osaka moved to Los Angeles two years ago, mainly because it was difficult to take full advantage of the business opportunities coming her way from her family’s home in Boca Raton.”

    3) She’s being encouraged by her peers towards activism: “Billie Jean King, who led the push toward equal prize money for women tennis players and has been an outspoken champion of the Title IX law, recently appeared in a Mastercard campaign with Osaka. “We’ve had deep discussions about her activism,” King says. “And I would say there’s something deep about Naomi, period. She looks at you and pauses when you ask her a question. You know she’s considering her answer seriously—instead of just a bunch of tangents like a lot of people her age. When we started the [Women’s Tennis Association] tour back in 1970, we wanted any girl in the world, no matter the color of her skin, to have a place to compete, to be appreciated for her accomplishments and not just her looks, and to be able to make a living. On top of all that, Naomi is making us focus on the problems we have as a nation. What she’s done has been my dream for the sport.”

    4) With a title like “How Naomi Osaka Became the People’s Champion”, the article is unclear what “people” she’s championing, when she’s representing Japan while considering America as home. This article has an open-mindedness and relativism I doubt you would find in any Japanese publication, especially if Osaka were criticizing Japan. Glad to see it, but to me it’s clear where the incentive systems lie. Activism towards situations in the US = Good, activism towards situations in Japan = Bad. That’s the lane she’s staying in.

    Again, the point is, as per this blog entry: Osaka is hardly a “Jesse Owens of Japan”.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Urgh, (eye roll) he’s back again.
    This time he’s so (much more!) confused. He doesn’t know if he’s patting himself on the back for allegedly raising Japanese awareness of racism against black people in the US, or talking about how black people are standing up (a little) against racism in Japan.
    I get it’s called ‘Black Eye’, but how about he talks about the Nike advert and shows how the racism black Americans suffer in the US is comparable to the racism Zainichi face in Japan? I guess he’s either worried about biting the hand that feeds him, or can’t see past his own blackness.
    I don’t read The Japan Times to learn about race issues in the USA. By using his column to talk about that, he’s using up valuable oxygen that would be better given to those who would stand up for some of the most discriminated against people in Japan.
    Maybe Baye needs to go back to the USA and join the ‘fight’ because he’s doing a disservice to minorities in Japan by glossing over their issues and presenting racism in Japan as a Japanese on black problem.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Naomi Osaka hype is the ‘gift that keeps on giving’.
    BBC News has this article about how Osaka’s multiracial background PROVES Japan is changing, and yet includes this comment from Japan’s number 3 female tennis player;
    ‘ “It’s not like Kei (Nishikori), who is a pure Japanese player.”’
    Wow, if THAT’S improvement, why hasn’t BBC News been ringing alarm bells about Japanese racism for decades?

    And while I’m on the topic of Osaka, who can fail but notice that since she needed some ‘personal time’ for her ‘mental health’ by pulling out of the French open a mere month ago, she’s;
    1. Penned an essay for Time magazine.
    2. Launched a ‘Naomi Osaka Barbie doll’.
    3. Premiered a Netflix ‘behind-the-scenes’ documentary (timed to coincide with the Olympics).

    Wow! That’s a pretty busy schedule with actually playing in the Olympics too! Good job she flaked out of Roland Garros for her mental health, she must be tired.

    Still described as ‘Japanese mother, Haitian father’ by the Japanese press (what, can’t call her American anymore? Aren’t Japanese embarrassed by a Japanese citizen constantly kicking up a stink over racism in the US?), has she offered any condolences for the situation in Haiti this week?


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