Black History Month: An Exciting Time for Female Athletes

By: Brittanni Flores 

In February, Black women made waves in the realm of sports. Leading the surge was emerging tennis star Naomi Osaka, who collected her fourth Grand Slam title after beating Jennifer Brady in straight sets. The 23-year-old Osaka also defeated 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the semi-finals  to reach the Final.

Naomi Osaka claims 4th Grand Slam trophy by beating Jennifer Brady in  Australia
Photo Courtesy of NBC News

Besides displaying an incredible display of athletic prowess, the semi-final matchup between Osaka and Williams was also a major stride in the athletes’ shared ambition to flip the perception of tennis from being a predominantly white sport. 

There are no better candidates to continue to move the sport forward than Osaka and Williams, who were respectively the first and second highest-paid female athletes of 2020. Off the court both women have also been vocal in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and how they imagine the future of tennis to be more diversified. 

Why stop with Tennis? These athletes used their monstrous earnings to become owners of teams in the up and coming National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Osaka is an owner of the North Carolina Courage, and even unveiled their new kits during her warm ups at the Australian Open. Williams’ and her family are owners of a new NWSL team that will be joining the league in 2022, Angel City. Not only are these women trying to grow the sport of tennis, but they are planting the seeds for the growth of women’s soccer as well. 

Three-Time Grand Slam Champion Naomi Osaka Invests in North Carolina  Courage Women's Professional Soccer Team
Photo courtesy of North Carolina Courage

Osaka and Williams aren’t the only Black Female Athletes supporting increased equality in soccer. Crystal Dunn, an NWSL star with the Portland Thorns and World Cup Champion, is also attempting to change women’s soccer on the international level. 

The focus of many of the conversations surrounding the United States Women’s National Team, has involved their lawsuit for equal pay. For Dunn, equal pay is not enough. 

“I have earned the right to be posterized and be a part of huge campaigns and lead the way for women’s soccer,” Dunn said during an interview for Forbes.

 Dunn believes there is still some level of whitewashing within the US Soccer Federation and is striving for more for her and other Black teammates such as Christen Press and Mallory Pugh. She has also been the face speaking to the press following matches, answering questions about where the team stands in combating current racial inequalities. 

Crystal Dunn, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh of USA celebrate...  News Photo - Getty Images
From left to right; Crystal Dunn, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh celebrating after a victory during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

 “We need to change the narrative that only white women play this sport,” Dunn said. “My goal is for Black women coming after me, that they even have a chance to be the face of this sport.” 

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka deserved better than 2018's sexist U.S.  Open. But fans shouldn't be surprised.
Photo Courtesy of NBC News

With the future in the hands of emerging stars Osaka and Dunn, and established legends like Williams, now is the time to be excited about women’s sports. Especially for girls and women of color.

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