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5 Things You Didn't Know About Rising Tennis Star Naomi Osaka

Culture & Entertainment

Naomi Osaka is a household name after her win at this year's U.S. Open. She defeated her tennis idol, Serena Williams, after a slew of controversial penalties that nearly overshadowed the 20-year-old's historic victory. Osaka is now the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, the youngest player in the top 20 rankings for the sport, and she is $3.8 million richer, too. Osaka's rise to tennis greatness is yet another example of the power of representation, the importance of a religious work-ethic, and why humility and poise can go a long way.

To celebrate her victory, here are some more interesting facts about the tennis star that makes her so relatable even though she has risen to stardom at such lightning speed.

The Real Reason She Cried After The US Open

Not many can relate to what it must feel like to be thrust upon the world stage at such a young age, besting your childhood hero, and winning at something that you've spent your whole life dreaming about. But one thing we can all probably relate to is crying when people would otherwise think we should be grinning from ear to ear. I'm guilty of the happy but nervous cry, and so is Naomi by her own admission. She told reporters that she was really just overwhelmed with emotion at the U.S. Open, and not crying from frustration with Serena Williams. She says:

"I feel like there was just a lot of emotions...I couldn't really pinpoint it at the time, I just felt very overwhelmed."

And for anyone who thinks we should feel sorry for the way she won her first Grand Slam title, think again. She told reporters that she has no regrets about the way things played out at the U.S. Open, and that she didn't need to "savor the moment" anymore than she did. She revealed:

"I'm grateful that people care or sympathize, but I don't really think there was anything to be sad about...I don't feel like I would've liked to savor the moment more--I think I do things my own way and everyone is different in their own way so I don't really have any regrets."

She's Biracial And Proud

The 20-year-old Haitian-Japanese has come a long way from her birthplace of Osaka, Japan. The daughter of a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father, the Osaka family had to contend with not only the lack of diversity in Japan, but her own family's disapproval of the interracial couple. The family eventually moved to the US when Naomi was just three years old, initially living in New York before moving to South Florida when Naomi was 8 or 9 years old. This makes her a dual citizen, but when she turned pro in 2013, her father decided to register her with the Japanese Tennis Association so that she could represent her country of birth.

If you needed any proof that she is proud of her Haitian heritage, she shut reporters down when she gracefully gathered them all the way together when discussing her biracial roots.

"Well, my dad is Haitian so I grew up in a Haitian household in New York, and I grew up with my grandma, and my mom is Japanese so I grew up with Japanese culture too. And if you're saying American, because I grew up in America, I have that too. So I hope I answered your question."

The best part of all of this is the potential to help change Japan's perceived reverence for racial homogeneity.

She Secured A Major Bag With Adidas

action sports / Shutterstock.com

There is no doubt that her biracial identity can go a long way in shining a light on just how diverse the world really is. Another brand that is hoping to capitalize on the increasing trend of embracing such diversity is Adidas. It was recently announced that Adidas has offered Osaka a deal, which is rumored to be in the $10 million dollar range, and is the largest deal they have ever made with a female tennis player to date.

Not only are they banking on Osaka's appeal as a world class athlete, Adidas knows that Osaka's diverse background and universal appeal will mean more money in the bank for them, too. Go get the bag, Naomi!

Doesn't Own A Car Despite Major Deal With Nissan

When you win a Grand Slam on the world stage, it is almost inevitable that new opportunities will be on the horizon. Your late teens and early twenties are usually a time for self-discovery, enjoying life without a ton of responsibility, learning how to drive and how to navigate life as an official adult. But for the 20-year-old, tennis has been Naomi's number one priority. She's been a tennis pro for the last five years when most young women are concerned about boys and their first car.

It's likely that Osaka will no longer have to worry about the car part, because it was recently announced that the tennis star will become a brand ambassador for Nissan. Her dreams have seemingly begun to come true, and for the tennis player, she is honored to represent Nissan due to it's Japanese origins. She says:

"Growing up, my dad drove a Nissan, so being able to be a brand ambassador now, it feels like I've come full circle."
"This week has been a dream come to life, and I'm so honored to represent Japan and Nissan on the world stage. I was drawn to partner with Nissan because of its strong Japanese DNA and global competitive spirit. The brand is always challenging expectations, and I look forward to bringing its vision for driving excitement to new audiences around the world."

She Crushes On Michael B. Jordan Just Like The Rest Of Us

Anyone who is anyone eventually gets the chance to sit down with Ellen DeGeneres for her daytime talk show. Naomi, who is typically demure in her delivery, played along with Ellen when she asked about some of her faves. She mentioned that Beyonce is her favorite singer and that her celebrity crush just happens to be Michael B. Jordan. Who couldn't relate to that?

And in true Ellen fashion, the talk show host took it one step further and reached out to Jordan on Naomi's behalf. In response, Michael B Jordan recorded the sweetest video that left all of us swooning. He says that Naomi is "an amazing example" that encourages young kids around the world to work hard in pursuit of their dreams. In the video, Jordan says that Osaka is now on his radar, too. He said:

"Just know that all the hard work, the blood, sweat, and tears that you put into this sport, that you put into your journey, people are finally being able to see — and that's a big thing to be proud of...Keep being great, everybody's watching now — me too."

We are all watching now, Naomi: no pressure!

Featured image by action sports / Shutterstock.com

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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