Dear Naomi Osaka, Young Queen in this world,
On behalf of the women in this world, I want to issue you an apology.
Last weekend, you accomplished a feat many young women will never achieve in their lifetime. At the highest level, on the greatest stage, you competed against your idol. Not only did you compete, you dominated. You struck six aces, twice the number your idol produced, with 73% of first serves in bounds. You won 45% of return points compared to Serena’s 36%, something unheard of against Serena Williams, whose serve is often regarded as one of the best in tennis. As I read in another article, you simply “Served better, moved better, and returned better.”
However, I was most impressed by your level-headed, collected mindset. I was floored by how poised you were as you stood on the court across from your idol who, overnight, became your rival. You were well aware that you may be crushing Serena’s dreams of 24 Grand Slams, despite the fact that you credit her for being much of the reason you were competing in your first Grand Slam. Quite frankly, Naomi, stepping foot on to that court was an accomplishment in itself; however, you did not stop there. You did not let up until the Grand Slam honor was yours.
Unfortunately, at no fault of your own, your moments of on-court greatness and the chance to celebrate were obscured by controversy. My heart broke into pieces as I watched you hide your tears underneath your black Adidas visor. Naomi, I want you to know there are so many women who feel for you, applaud you, and support you.
Like you, I love Serena Williams, yet the love I have for her pales in comparison to yours. I’ve watched countless videos of you throwing praise, admiration, and respect her way over the years. Understandably, she is your muse and motivator.
The barriers Serena has broken to provide you this opportunity could never go unnoticed or unacknowledged. Serena has been forced to strictly police her clothing, body, and emotions in a sport not meant for young queens from Compton. The constant body shaming, excessive drug testing, and relentless scrutiny she continues to endure reminds me and millions of other people around the world of all the work that is left to do, on and off the court, with respect to race and gender equality.
Naomi, despite all Serena has endured, on Saturday, she let the umpire get the best of her, and together they stole your moment. Because of that, my heart aches for you. You deserved your moment and then some.
I believe Serena is in a rather difficult position. While she is advocating for equality, I don’t know that she always considers the fact that she has the responsibility to behave in a different way because of the Young Queens on the other side of the net. She has accepted the challenge and consequential burden of fighting for fairness and, unfortunately, in the heat of her battle, she was not cognitive of how her actions would drive the rest of the evening. Because of her actions, your moment was diminished. The spotlight moved away from your win and was redirected to the continued plight of women in sports. Regardless of the strife, turmoil, and tension, you deserved your moment, Naomi.
Tennis legend, Billie Jean King, tweeted this weekend: “When a woman is emotional, she is ‘hysterical’, and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’, and and there are no repercussions.” Young Queen, being penalized for an outward display of emotions is not particular to the tennis world. This gendered dichotomy can be seen throughout various industries in the modern American workplace.
Serena Williams is not the first woman to be at the top of her game only to be tripped up, knocked down, and held back from her dreams. However, we don’t all have the privilege of possessing a platform influential enough to capture the attention of the entire world. She is well aware of her influence, and she made us aware as she flexed her power by telling the umpire he would never set foot on her court again. Her power took center stage, and the little girl who stood across the court from her, 16 years her junior, disappeared. She lost her cool, Naomi, but you, you did not, Young Queen.
Was there a possibility that Serena could have taken a moment to consider how her actions may affect you and all the little girls of color around the world who dream to be just like her one day?
While standing on the pedestal next to you as boos rang out, could she have given you praise instead of rallying her troops for a later date?
In her post interviews, could she have graciously acknowledged your pure talent, hard work, level headedness, and dedication the way you so graciously have given her credit in the past?
Could the debate surrounding sexism and double standards wait just a few days while one of our own, as well as the first person of Japanese descent to win a Grand Slam, got to shine?
I’m sure she could have and, honestly, I wish she would have redirected her energy so your moment could have been celebrated properly.
You see, Young Queen, at some point in our lives, when we transition from girls to women, our growth and maturation is no longer connected to age or menstrual cycles. Instead, our upward mobility is connected to our mentality and our ability to recognize the path we blaze is not just for ourselves but for the young women behind us as well. Growth is not just in the path we blaze; we must, through our actions, show support and offer praise for Young Queens like you. We must be willing to gracefully step aside to allow other Young Queens to shine. You deserve the credit for all you accomplished on Saturday. We are in awe of you, Naomi. Shine on, Young Queen. Shine on.
-A Queen who will always put her Young Queens first.
P.S. – I read that you are set to renew with ADIDAS for ten-million a year. Can I hold something, Young Queen? 😉