Naomi Osaka Faced Race Backlash After Choosing Japan: 'Your Black Card Is Revoked'

Professional tennis player Naomi Osaka has said she faced a backlash for choosing to compete for Japan rather than the U.S. and that some criticism focused on her race.

Osaka discussed her decision to play for Japan in her new Netflix docuseries. She was born in Chūō-ku in Osaka and her mother was Japanese, while her father was from Haiti. She was raised in the U.S.

"I've been playing under the Japan flag since I was 14. It was never even a secret that I'm going to play for Japan for the Olympics," Osaka said in the series, which premiered on Thursday.

Osaka will compete for the East Asian nation at the Olympic Games this summer that will take place in Tokyo, Japan.

However, she said she faced some backlash for that decision and some people made reference to her racial heritage as part of that criticism.

"'I don't choose America and suddenly people are like, 'Your black card is revoked.' And it's like, African American isn't the only Black, you know?" Osaka said.

"I don't know, I feel like people really don't know the difference between nationality and race because there's a lot of Black people in Brazil, but they're Brazilian," she went on.

Osaka moved to New York when she was three years old. Her father's parents live on Long Island. Osaka's mother, Tamaki Osaka, spoke to The Wall Street Journal in 2018 about her daughter playing for the country of her birth.

"We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age," her mother said.

"She was born in Osaka and was brought up in a household of Japanese and Haitian culture. Quite simply, Naomi and her sister Mari have always felt Japanese so that was our only rationale," Tamaki Osaka said.

"'It was never a financially motivated decision nor were we ever swayed either way by any national federation," she said.

The Netflix docuseries about Osaka is available now. The streaming site says of the show: "This intimate series follows Naomi Osaka as she explores her cultural roots and navigates her multifaceted identity as a tennis champ and rising leader."

Osaka is currently world number two in tennis singles ranking, according to the Women's Tennis Association (WTA). She was ranked number one on January 28, 2019.

In February this year, Osaka defeated veteran player and tennis legend Serena Williams, who is 39. Osaka advanced to the final of the Australian Open after defeating Williams 6-3, 6-4 in their semifinal match. She went on to defeat Jennifer Brady in the final.

"I don't know if there's any little kids out here today, but I was a little kid watching her play," Osaka said after her bout with Williams. "And just to be on the court playing against her, for me, is a dream."

Newsweek has asked Naomi Osaka for comment.

Naomi Osaka Plays in the French Open
Naomi Osaka of Japan during her match against Patricia Maria Tig of Romania in the first round of the Women's Singles competition on Court Philippe-Chatrier at the 2021 French Open Tennis Tournament at Roland Garros on May 30th 2021 in Paris, France. Osaka has discussed backlash to her decision to compete for Japan. Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty Images