One of Naomi Osaka's sponsors has issued a groveling apology after accusations of 'white-washing' her in an advert

Photo by Kyodo News via Getty ImagesNaomi Osaka at a Nissin event.
  • Nissin has apologised after accusations of “white-washing” the tennis player Naomi Osaka.
  • The Japanese noodle maker has sponsored Osaka since 2016 and featured her in an ad this month.
  • But a reporter for Japan Times said “there was no woman of colour,” but a “white-washed” version.
  • Nissin has reportedly said there “was no intention” of white-washing, and the ad has since been pulled from YouTube.
  • Osaka, yet to comment, is currently competing at the Australian Open in Melbourne and plays a semi-final match on Thursday.

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

The Japanese instant noodle maker began sponsoring Osaka in 2016, and the athlete has since gone on to become one of the best players in women’s tennis, winning the 2018 US Open, and signing big sponsorship deals with the automobile firm Nissan and the retail giant Adidas.

Read more: Naomi Osaka has signed a 3-year endorsement deal with Nissan – and she’s well on her way to becoming the biggest star in tennis

Nissin recently launched its “Hungry to win” campaign but Baye McNeil, the author of the Black Eye column in the Japan Times, said that even though Osaka features, “there was no woman of colour to speak of in the commercial.”

You can see Osaka, and the Nissin ad, below.

Naomi Osaka white washedGetty Images / Nissin

McNeil wrote: “Instead, I found a white-washed representation of Osaka … Everything that distinguishes Osaka from your typical Japanese anime character was gone, and what was left? Your typical Japanese anime character.

“Come on, Nissin. Was this a business decision? … Such a small decision in an ad campaign can have larger ramifications. Nissin may be targeting the ad at its Japanese audience, but the commercial is on YouTube and that audience is global – a whole world of potential customers.

“Japan has recently been welcoming in more tourists – 31 million in 2018 – and is hinting that it is open to more immigration, but is Nissin telling us that the Japanese prefer their brown people to be slightly white?”

McNeil wrote that Nissin said Osaka was involved in the ad’s creation, but added that the company “blew it.”

Nissin has since apologised and seems to have pulled the video from YouTube.

“There is no intention of whitewashing,” a spokesman told The New York Times in an email. “We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issue in the future.”

The spokesman also apologised for “the confusion and discomfort.”

Naomi Osaka US Open finalPhoto by Julian Finney/Getty ImagesOsaka defeated Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open.

‘The world has gone crazy’

This is not the first time a prominent tennis player has been drawn in a problematic way by a cartoonist, and follows the Australian newspaper The Herald Sun’s decision to publish a controversial drawing of Serena Williams.

Williams is shown with grotesque features including an oversize nose and lips and is pictured jumping up and down with a broken racket and a pacifier nearby, insinuating that Williams acted like a baby having a temper tantrum during her 2018 US Open final loss to Osaka, who is standing nearby on court.

The newspaper and its cartoonist, Mark Knight, experienced global backlash but Knight responded by claiming the “world has gone crazy.” The newspaper then reprinted the cartoon on its front page, alongside the headline: “Welcome to PC world.”

Read more: Serena Williams’ Reddit co-founder husband Alexis Ohanian slams controversial ‘angry baby’ cartoon for being ‘racist and misogynistic’

Osaka is yet to comment on the Nissin ad, and is currently competing in the 2019 Australian Open as she hopes to win back-to-back Grand Slam titles following her US Open success last year.

Osaka plays Karolina Pliskova in Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena in the tournament’s semi-final on Thursday and, if successful, will face the winner of Danielle Rose Collins and Petra Kvitova’s semi in the Australian Open final on Saturday.

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