Once again, a group from Japan insisted on erasing Naomi Osaka‘s Blackness and they faced swift backlash.
According to ESPN, a Japanese comedy duo known as A Masso reportedly made comments at a live event saying Osaka “needed some bleach.” They made the remarks on Sunday, which was the same day that Osaka won the Pan Pacific Open trophy in Tokyo. Osaka, who is half Japanese and half Haitian, won her last tennis title in January at the Australian Open.
Along with the jokes about Osaka needing some bleach, the comedy duo also said Osaka “is too sunburned.”
A Masso and their management eventually apologized even though they didn’t mention Osaka by name. In separate text on the website of their management company, Watanabe Entertainment Co Ltd, both women from the comedy duo apologized for making ” inappropriate, hurtful remarks.”
“We sincerely apologize for making the specific person feel uncomfortable, as well as for everyone else connected to the event,” one half of the duo said. “We also sincerely apologize for causing trouble. Though we should have thought about it, we made remarks that hurt many people, something we will never do again.”
Watanabe Entertainment also made their own apology without naming Osaka. They apologized for “remarks inconsiderate of diversity in an era where diversity is respected”, and they explained that the comedy duo had been severely warned after their remarks. They also said steps had been taken to raise their awareness about the topic.
This is not the first time Naomi had to deal with anti-Black rhetoric or imagery. Back in January, a Japanese noodle company called Nissin was under fire for a commercial that depicted Osaka as a cartoon character with pale skin. The company eventually took the ad down saying they didn’t intend to whitewash Osaka and they will “pay more attention to respect for diversity in our PR activities.”
Osaka responded to the controversy saying, “I’m tan, it’s pretty obvious.”
Osaka was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother but relocated to the United States when she was young. The young star gained fame when she beat Serena Williams back in 2018 at the U.S. Open, although her win was almost overshadowed by a spat between Williams and a chair umpire that opened debates about double standards against women.
Osaka’s Australian Open win in January became her second Grand Slam title. The tennis star will turn 22 next month.