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Osaka won't play Western & Southern Open semifinal in stance for racial justice, tournament paused

"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 ... rather than watching me play tennis," Osaka wrote.
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Two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka said she wouldn't play her semifinals match Thursday at the Western & Southern Open in a stance for racial justice after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. Hours later, the U.S. Tennis Association said the tournament would not resume until Friday.

"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," said a statement from the USTA, the Association of Tennis Professionals and the Women's Tennis Association.

"The USTA, ATP Tour, and WTA have decided to recognize this moment in time by pausing play at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday, August 27. Play will resume on Friday, August 28," the statement said.

Two hours earlier, Osaka, 22, had posted on Twitter that she wouldn't be playing Thursday.

"As many of you are aware I was scheduled to play my semifinals match tomorrow. 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," Osaka wrote.

"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 wrote. "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?"

The once-number 1 ranked player, who represents Japan, concluded her post with the names: "#Jacob Blake, #BreonnaTaylor, #ElijahMcClain, #GeorgeFloyd."

The 16-year-old tennis phenom Coco Gauff, who is also playing in the Western & Southern Open, retweeted Osaka.

The tournament is set to conclude Friday and will be followed by the U.S. Open, beginning Monday, Aug. 31.

Osaka's decision and the USTA's pause on play followed the postponement of professional basketball, baseball and soccer games after the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t take the floor during a playoff match in a protest of the police shooting of Blake.

The National Basketball Association cited the Bucks when it said it was delaying other playoff games between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets and between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The NBA's board of governors is due to meet Thursday morning to decide how to move forward.