Naomi Osaka wears a protective mask due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, featuring the name "George Floyd", while arriving at the 2020 US Open. (Image via AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) Tennis superstar joins up with NC pro soccer team.
Naomi Osaka wears a protective mask due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, featuring the name "George Floyd", while arriving at the 2020 US Open. (Image via AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Naomi Osaka announced she’s now a partial owner of the NC Courage, the pro women’s soccer team that plays in Cary.

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka is now an owner of the Triangle area’s professional women’s soccer team, the North Carolina Courage. The 23-year-old announced the news on her social media pages early Thursday morning from Australia, where she is training for the upcoming Australian Open. 

“The women who have invested in me growing up made me who I am today and I cannot think of where my life would be without them,” Osaka said. “My investment in the North Carolina Courage is…an investment in amazing women who are role models and leaders in their fields and inspirations to all young female athletes.” 

Social Justice a Priority

The young tennis star is one of the most successful athletes on and off the court. Last year, Osaka, who is of Haitian and Japanese descent, wore masks with the names of victims of police brutality to her matches. In August, she withdrew from the Western & Southern Open to move the focus to the fight for racial equality. Osaka was the first Asian player to hold the No. 1 ranking in singles and the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam and in December, she was named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year. 

Stephen Malik, who’s been chairman and majority owner of NC Courage since 2016, told Cardinal & Pine in an interview that Osaka’s investment will allow the players and the organization to have a greater platform to tackle social justice issues. 

“I’m more excited about that than I am about anything else,” said Malik. “We’re very focused on doing the right thing in terms of equality, diversity, inclusion, (and) we want to win.”

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Osaka is investing in one of the most successful teams in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the highest division of women’s professional soccer in the United States. The Courage, who currently play at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, are back-to-back champions in the NWSL and were winners of the 2018 Women’s International Cup. The 2021 season begins in April with the NWSL Challenge Cup.

“She certainly related to the winning aspect of our organization, even down to the style of play,” said Malik. “And giving back to the community, she’s got a foundation with Nike that invests in young women playing (sports). This is about women investing in women.”

Like their new owner, the soccer club was supportive and vocal about social justice issues throughout the summer and the team even wore the names of police brutality victims on the backs of their game jerseys. 

Malik said Osaka’s push for racial equity is one that resonates with the team. 

“She is willing to step out and push for what’s right and what needs to be changed,” Malik told Cardinal & Pine in an interview. “Our players absolutely appreciate that. As an organization, we’re supportive of that. And there’s no way we would be doing business together if we weren’t aligned on those core issues.”

Osaka
Naomi Osaka in an NC Courage jersey (Image via Osaka on Instagram.)