Haitian American Sports

Japanese Sponsor Accused of ‘White-Washing’ Haitian Japanese Tennis Star Naomi Osaka

Osaka
A screengrab from a commercial produced by Japanese noodle maker Nissin, featuring tennis stars Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori.

Nissin has issued an apology after getting accused of “white-washing” Haitian-Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka in an advertising campaign.

This month, cup noodle maker Nissin served up its animated “Hungry to win” ad campaign, drawn by “Prince of Tennis” artist Takeshi Konomi featuring tennis stars Kei Nishikori and Haitian Japanese US Open Champ, Naomi Osaka.

The advertisement quickly drew criticism on social media, with many users accusing Nissin of whitewashing Osaka. Critics allege the cartoon depicts Osaka, who is half Haitian and half Japanese, as having pale skin, light brown hair and Caucasian features.

Baye McNeil, an African-American columnist based in Japan, said Nissin had altered Osaka’s appearance to make her more commercially “appealing”. “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,”  said McNeil in his “Black Eye” column.

Osaka
A screengrab from a commercial produced by Japanese noodle maker Nissin, featuring tennis stars Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori.

Noodle maker Nissin said that it did not intend to whitewash the 21-year-old tennis star.

“There is no intention of white-washing,” 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.

On Tuesday, the reigning Haitian Japanese US Open champ made her way back into the semifinals of a Grand Slam after taking down No.6 seed Elina Svitolina in straight sets.

Osaka sealed her 12th consecutive Grand Slam win in dominating style, winning 6-4, 6-1 against the WTA Finals champion in just an hour and 10 minutes. Osaka, who is seeking to become just the tenth player ever to pull off a New York-Melbourne double, and the first to do so since Serena in 2015, coasted in the second set but got off to a grueling start against Svitolina.

The US Open champion now faces Czech seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, who came from 5-1 behind in the third set against Serena Williams to stun the 23-time major winner.

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