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STATEMENT: Naomi Osaka

The equality, diversity and equal opportunity in sport charity, equitysport, has made a statement regarding Naomi Osaka's withdrawal from the 2021 French Open and why now is the time to pull together for a brighter future.

We appreciate that many of our supporters are concerned by the recent events surrounding Naomi Osaka and the French Open and the targeted and at times, unacceptable reaction of the media and a small minority of fans.

It is not the role of any organisation, equitysport included, to act as judge and jury on Naomi Osaka's withdrawal from the French Open, less so to play any part in clumsy and misinformed attempts to diagnose mental health conditions from afar. We, at equitysport will play no part in that discourse.

The reaction since last weeks announcement that Naomi will not attend press conferences at the French Open and her subsequent withdrawal from the competition altogether has seen the very worst and the very best of sport and society.

As self-appointed defenders of convention and tradition, for many of the 'shut up and play' generation, Naomi Osaka's outspoken activism has been a longstanding cause for concern; she represents a new cohort of optimistic-idealists in sport who believe in the power of change; they ask 'why' even when it's uncomfortable and are ready to push for real shifts in power hierarchies and dynamics, both in and out of the global sporting ecosystem.

It's important at times like this, when faced by the disturbing confidence of ignorance, that we are not distracted by the voices of the past; for whom the sight and sound of a strong, mixed race woman speaking out on an issue like mental health and the natural order of things, however minor, is perceived as a direct challenge to an outdated world view of conformity above all else.

Instead, let us pause to recognise, acknowledge and celebrate the genuine outpouring of support for both Naomi personally, and for her wider message from across the world and by people from all walks of life.

Despite attempts by tennis authorities to threaten its athletes into obedient submission, we, at equitysport, believe that your personal agency is not diluted on account of being very good at tennis.

It is difficult to understand how it can be that in 2021, a young athlete, who's talent has jettisoned her onto the world stage, and who has actively used that platform to address social ills, tackle discrimination and advance equality, has felt it necessary to withdraw from international competition to protect her mental wellbeing.

Sport can do better. Sport must do better. And judging by the sheer weight of support for change from so many around the world, sport will do better.


equitysport is a UK-registered charity (1189559) that exists to advance and promote equality, diversity and equal opportunity in and through global sport. Through free-form development, targeted advocacy, vocational training and education programmes the charity seeks an inclusive and equitable sporting ecosystem that lives up to the true values of sport.

Notes to Editors

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