Chris Evert ‘proud’ of Naomi Osaka for using her platform to promote racial equality

Kevin Palmer
Naomi Osaka looking pleased

Chris Evert believes Naomi Osaka showed real courage to use her platform as the rising star of tennis to highlight the drive for racial equality.

Japanese superstar Osaka pulled out of her semi-final at the Western & Southern Open in protest at the “continued genocide of Black people at the hands of police” last month, with her stand creating headlines around the world.

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Osaka staged a one-day boycott in an effort to highlight the Black Lives Matter cause and went on to win the US Open a couple of weeks later, with her comments in the media on the issue of racism reaching a huge audience.

Now seven-time French Open champion and Eurosport analyst Evert has saluted her move to make a stand, as she admits she was surprised by her intervention.

“I was really proud of her,” declared Evert. “I was pleasantly surprised for somebody who always has been soft-spoken and who has never liked the attention and who never liked to be controversial, and never like to be in the limelight, I was like WOW, that’s a big statement.

“But she did it in a calm and her own Naomi calm, classy way and I think that it was very heartfelt. I think it was very genuine, and authentic from her, and very heartfelt.

“She’s getting more and more comfortable with all of you and with being in the limelight and all the attention she’s getting. She’s starting to realize that she could really make a difference in this world and that’s a great revelation when you realize that you can because you’re owning your power and you want to use it in the right way.

“I do hope other players follow her. I know Coco (Gauff) has done that, obviously Serena and Venus (Williams) have done that, and that really carries over from Billie-Jean King and Martina Navratilova. We have a big following as tennis players, and so we have a very important platform.”

Naomi Osaka wearing an Elijah McClain mask

Osaka wore face masks highlights police brutality against black people during her run to US Open glory and Evert believes it was an initiative that propelled her towards victory in New York.

“I think it was very authentic and I think that she used that because she wanted to wear those 7 masks during the tournament,” she reflected. “I really think it helped her to win the US Open.”

Chris Evert is a tennis expert for Eurosport. All courts and all matches from Roland-Garros will be live on Eurosport and Eurosport app throughout the tournament.

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