A Japanese comedy duo apologized after reportedly saying that tennis star Naomi Osaka “needed some bleach.”
The pair, known as “A Masso,” reportedly made the comment during a live event on Sunday, the same day Osaka won the Pan Pacific Open — her first trophy since the Australian Open in January.
A Masso, composed of comedians Aiko Kano and Ai Murakami, also said that Osaka is “too sunburned,” according to Reuters.
In separate messages posted on the website of their management company, Watanabe Entertainment, both women apologized for “inappropriate” and “hurtful” remarks, though they did not directly name the 21-year-old tennis star.
“We sincerely apologize for making the specific person feel uncomfortable, as well as for everyone else connected to the event,” Murakami wrote.
According to the Japan Times, Watanabe also apologized for their “failure to supervise A Masso who made remarks that entirely lacked consideration.”
Watanabe reportedly gave the pair a severe warning and took steps to raise awareness on the issue, pointing out that the duo’s remarks were “inconsiderate of diversity in an era where diversity is respected.”
“Though we should have thought about it, we made remarks that hurt many people, something we will never do again,” Murakami added.
A Masso has reportedly been performing as a duo since 2010. News of their remarks and apology apparently went viral on Japanese social media.
“I’m surprised and shocked that A Masso hasn’t been fired or even suspended for their racist remark about Naomi Osaka,” one Twitter user wrote, according to the South China Morning Post. “Shame on you Watanabe Entertainment.”
Other users recalled the racism Brazilian footballer Dani Alves faced during a match in Spain in 2014. At the time, a spectator threw a banana at him.
“A Masso’s Naomi Osaka joke is similar to that of the audience member who threw a banana at Alves,” one wrote. “[Of course] A Masso should have apologized.”
Osaka, who was born to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, has dealt with similar issues in the past.
In January, Japanese noodle company Nissin sparked outrage after releasing an ad that depicted the tennis sensation with light skin.
“There is no intention of whitewashing,” a company spokesperson said, according to the Guardian. “We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issues in the future.”