Japanese sponsor accused of 'whitewashing' tennis star Naomi Osaka

One of Naomi Osaka's Japanese sponsors has apologized after releasing an advertisement which has been widely accused of "whitewashing" the tennis star's skin tone.

Posted: Jan 23, 2019 3:00 PM
Updated: Jan 23, 2019 3:00 PM

One of Naomi Osaka's Japanese sponsors has apologized after releasing an advertisement which has been widely accused of "whitewashing" the tennis star's skin tone.

The 2018 US Open winner is featured in the ad as an anime character for instant noodle giant Nissin, alongside fellow Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori.

Critics allege the cartoon depicts Osaka, who is half Japanese and half Haitian, as having pale skin, light brown hair and Caucasian features.

"I was truly disappointed to see that there was no woman of color to speak of in the commercial. Instead, I found a white-washed representation of Osaka," Baye McNeil, an African-American columnist who writes for the English-language Japan Times, said in his "Black Eye" column.

Noodle maker Nissin said that it did not intend to whitewash the 20-year-old tennis star, who holds dual Japanese and American citizenship.

"There is no intention of whitewashing," Nissin spokesman Daisuke Okabayashi confirmed to CNN. "We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issues in the future."

He said that the video had been shown to Osaka before it was released, adding that Nissin would stop using the ad and remove it from YouTube following a request from the player's management company, IMG.

The ad was illustrated by anime artist Takeshi Konomi, famous for his "Prince of Tennis" cartoon. The company did not say whether it would be discontinued following the backlash.

Osaka, who is in the semifinals of the Australian Open following her straight-sets victory over Ukraine's Elina Svitolina Wednesday, is ranked 4th in the world and won her first grand slam title at Flushing Meadows last summer.

It was also the first time a Japanese player had won one of tennis' four Grand Slams.

The final, in which she beat Serena Williams, was overshadowed by controversy surrounding the 23-time major winner's outburst at the referee.

That saga also prompted an allegedly racist cartoon, when an Australian cartoonist depicted Williams with large, exaggerated lips and a nose reminiscent of racist depictions of black people in the US during the Jim Crow era. In that image, Osaka was portrayed as a blonde woman with pale skin.

The US-based National Association of Black Journalists said the cartoon was "repugnant on many levels."

Osaka's grand slam win captured the attention of Japan, which has not produced a female player in the world top 10 since 2004.

Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the name of the sponsor on first reference.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 114236

Reported Deaths: 3548
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21067764
Lake10397321
Elkhart6477109
St. Joseph6312105
Allen6113201
Hamilton4803109
Vanderburgh353630
Hendricks2694123
Monroe253136
Tippecanoe234713
Johnson2291123
Clark218756
Porter210546
Cass19399
Delaware191861
Vigo180324
Madison161975
LaPorte140540
Floyd135161
Howard129263
Warrick123436
Kosciusko121117
Bartholomew115557
Marshall99724
Dubois96418
Boone96046
Hancock91743
Grant90334
Noble90032
Henry79326
Wayne75114
Jackson7469
Morgan70938
Shelby66829
Daviess65828
Dearborn64728
LaGrange63411
Clinton59514
Harrison56624
Putnam54211
Knox5139
Lawrence51028
Montgomery50721
Gibson4964
White48314
DeKalb46811
Decatur45839
Miami4313
Greene42235
Fayette41913
Jasper3902
Steuben3787
Scott36711
Sullivan33312
Posey3160
Jennings31212
Franklin30325
Clay2995
Orange28824
Ripley2878
Carroll27313
Wabash2638
Washington2631
Whitley2617
Starke2597
Adams2553
Wells2513
Jefferson2473
Fulton2352
Spencer2283
Huntington2253
Tipton22122
Perry21613
Randolph2117
Jay1760
Newton17211
Owen1681
Martin1640
Rush1544
Pike1431
Vermillion1270
Fountain1202
Pulaski1161
Blackford1143
Brown1043
Crawford1040
Parke972
Benton880
Ohio787
Union780
Switzerland690
Warren391
Unassigned0226

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 147744

Reported Deaths: 4715
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin26545606
Cuyahoga17327656
Hamilton12953315
Montgomery7667157
Lucas7230364
Butler5838110
Summit5237252
Marion308347
Mahoning3030281
Warren300249
Stark2817170
Pickaway264444
Lorain229586
Delaware221620
Fairfield206752
Columbiana192480
Licking189863
Trumbull1876132
Wood180472
Clark177740
Clermont167923
Lake160850
Medina145139
Greene142032
Allen140869
Miami140751
Portage111666
Mercer110118
Erie93246
Tuscarawas92820
Wayne91967
Ross86823
Richland83919
Madison80212
Darke78442
Belmont71827
Geauga71348
Hancock68610
Ashtabula65548
Athens6532
Lawrence64122
Shelby61010
Auglaize5859
Putnam57923
Sandusky55820
Huron5427
Union5152
Scioto4896
Ottawa46930
Seneca46414
Preble43015
Muskingum3922
Holmes3857
Jefferson3354
Logan3083
Henry30613
Champaign3023
Perry2939
Defiance28811
Clinton28613
Brown2842
Knox28215
Washington25823
Morrow2572
Hardin25213
Jackson2466
Fulton2411
Ashland2364
Coshocton23311
Crawford2316
Fayette2286
Highland2223
Wyandot20812
Williams2063
Gallia18913
Pike1790
Meigs17410
Guernsey1678
Hocking1619
Carroll1527
Adams1264
Van Wert1163
Monroe11018
Paulding1070
Harrison632
Morgan470
Vinton473
Noble280
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 75°
Angola
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 75°
Huntington
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 74°
Decatur
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 78°
Van Wert
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 78°
Sunny, Pleasant Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events