Naomi Osaka becomes first Haitian and Japanese woman on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, gets bullied for it

naomi osaka

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka became the first Japanese woman and Black female athlete to appear on Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition cover.

Making history: Osaka, who is representing Japan in the Tokyo Olympics later this month, shared the historic cover for SI’s 2021 Swimsuit issue with rapper Megan Thee Stallion and activist Leyna Bloom, reported USA Today.

  • Osaka announced on Monday via Twitter that she is the first Haitian and Japanese woman to appear on the cover of the Swimsuit Edition.
  • For the shoot, Asian American photographer Yu Tsai took photos of the 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam champion.
  • In a statement, SI Swimsuit Editor-in-Chief MJ Day recognized Osaka as “one of the best athletes in the world,” noting that a cover spot for her “felt obvious.” 
  • “She’s spent her formative years racking up titles and is headed to the Olympics,” Day said. “But we celebrate Naomi for her passion, strength and power geared towards consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice, and mental health.”

Critics weigh in: While many celebrated Osaka’s cover, some critics mocked the athlete for gracing the cover while complaining about the media, reported Vanity Fair.

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  • Sports analyst Clay Travis, 42, tweeted, “Since saying she’s too introverted to talk to the media after tennis matches, Naomi Osaka has launched a reality show, a Barbie, and now is on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue.”
  • TV host Megyn Kelly, 50, retweeted the post, adding: “Let’s not forget the cover of (& interview in) Vogue Japan and Time Mag!”
  • Osaka reacted to the thread, replying with, “Seeing as you’re a journalist I would’ve assumed you would take the time to research what the lead times are for magazines, if you did that you would’ve found out I shot all of my covers last year. Instead, your first reaction is to hop on here and spew negativity, do better, Megan [sic].”
  • Kelly continued mocking Osaka with another tweet, “Poor @naomiosaka blocked me while taking a shot at me (guess she’s only tough on the courts). She is apparently arguing that she shot her many covers b/4 publicly claiming she was too socially anxious to deal w/press. Truth is she just doesn’t like Qs she can’t control. Admit it.”
  • Piers Morgan, a 56-year-old TV personality, said that the “only media” Osaka tolerates “are sycophantic magazine editors telling her how perfect she is.”
  • While Osaka no longer responded to Kelly, other Twitter users weighed in on the issue and expressed support for the athlete.

On mental health: In May, Osaka lamented how her negative interactions with the press have been affecting her mental health, NextShark previously reported.

  • The star athlete withdrew from the French Open after being fined $15,000 for not attending a press conference.
  • “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” Osaka tweeted. “We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.”

The 2021 Swimsuit Issue also made history with Filipino American model Leyna Bloom as the first-ever trans woman of color to land the cover, Nextshark reported.

Featured Image via @si_swimsuit

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