AFP/File / JOSE JORDAN Protests: Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka
Two-time Grand Slam tennis champion Naomi Osaka joined the chorus of athletes condemning the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of Minneapolis police, posting pictures of protests from the Minnesota city on her Instagram account.
“Just because it isn’t happening to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening at all,” wrote Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and whose father is Haitian.
“It’s funny to me that the people who wanna wear chains, blast hip hop in the gym, attempt to get dapped up, and talk in slang are suddenly quiet right now,” added Osaka, the former world number one who was this week touted by Forbes magazine as the highest-paid female athlete in the world with earnings of $37.4 million (34.3 million euros).
Minneapolis, Minnesota, has become the epicenter of violent protests since George Floyd died there on Monday after police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground for several minutes by kneeling on his neck.
Chauvin has been charged with murder and negligent manslaughter, but protests across the country have turned violent.
US sports stars attuned to social issues were quick to voice outrage at Floyd’s death.
Three-time NBA champion LeBron James contrasted the knee on Floyd’s neck with the kneeling protests of former NFL star Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
Kaepernick, who was ostracized by the NFL for kneeling during the national anthem in protest against racial injustice, has launched a fund to pay for legal representation for protesters who need it.
In Germany on Saturday, Schalke’s American midfielder Weston McKennie wore a “Justice for George” armband in his team’s 1-0 Bundesliga loss to Werder Bremen.
“To be able to use my platform to bring attention to a problem that has been going on too long feels good!!!” the 21-year-old tweeted.
Rising US tennis star Coco Gauff applauded Osaka’s Instagram’s post on Saturday.
The 16-year-old African American, who burst onto the international scene with a fourth-round run at Wimbledon last year that included a triumph over her idol Venus Williams, had posted her own chilling condemnation of Floyd’s death on social media on Friday.
In a video she referenced a number of unarmed black Americans who died in recent years at the hands of authorities or white fellow citizens.
“Am I next?” Gauff asked.
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