Tennis ace and four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka recently came under fire due to her choice of names. The tennis star is currently the world’s highest-paid female athlete, with over $50 million to her name as of last year.
Osaka’s new company, Hana Kuma, was co-founded by LeBron James‘ marketing firm, SpringHill. While the name means “flower bear” in Japanese, it has a much more vulgar meaning in Swahili. Swahili is the language of East African countries like Kenya and Tanzania. It is spoken across 14 countries by around 200 million people and is currently listed as one of the world’s top most spoken languages.
After announcing the name of her new company, Osaka faced backlash, majorly from African countries, who demanded that the 24-year-old change the name of her new media company. They also blamed her research team for not correctly reviewing the name before its use.
Naomi Osaka Facing Backlash After ‘Explicit’ Company Name
Osaka is currently facing backlash over the explicit name of her new media company. The 24-year-old launched her new media production company in collaboration with James on Tuesday. She described it as a “media platform focused on stories that are culturally specific but universal.”
While talking to the New York Times about the company, which she dubbed “Hana Kuma,” Osaka revealed that the name translates to “flower bear” in Japanese. However, according to Twitter users, it means something entirely different in Swahili.
The users revealed that in Swahili, the term “Hana Kuma” translates to “woman without a vagina.” The athlete was met with fierce criticism and asked to change the name of the co-owned company.
Fans’ Reaction To Media Company’s Name
The concern over the name first started trending in several African countries, and Osaka’s research team was blamed for their lack of care while choosing the name. Several users also called the name “unethical” and “explicit.”
A Ugandan journalist Daniel Kibet tweeted, “Naomi Osaka has partnered with LeBron James to start a media company called Hana Kuma. Well this Hana Kuma means something different in Swahili. I won’t say it.”
Another user tweeted, “Did they do a global search on what the name means? She should have been well advised [that] it has a very vulgar meaning in Swahili, which is spoken by many people.”
A fan said, “If you keep the name #hanakuma, the name will override the news and the stories you wish to share. The name of the brand is already news! I suggest a change and also just being a bit respectful to global culture. It’s not overthinking here; it’s protecting a brand!”
Osaka is yet to respond to the backlash; however, she shared a cryptic tweet on Wednesday night about overthinking. It read, “Prayers for all my overthinkers. We be going through it.”
She Wants To Tell Diverse Stories
While talking about what she hoped to achieve with the company, Osaka told the New York Times that she wanted the company to grow to become one of the top Hollywood media names. It would handle projects like television shows, documentaries, and branded content.
The tennis player further revealed that the company would focus on diverse storytelling. She said, “What excites me is being able to inspire people and tell new stories, particularly ones that I would have wanted to see when I was a kid. I always wanted to kind of see someone like me.”
The former world No. 1 is currently the world’s highest-paid female athlete. As of last year, she was worth around $57 million. Much of her earnings result from lucrative endorsement deals with famous brands like Nike and Louis Vuitton. She recently announced that she was withdrawing from the fast-approaching Wimbledon tournament due to an Achilles injury.
Naomi Osaka Will Not Participate In Wimbledon Tournament
Osaka recently confirmed that she would not play in the Wimbledon tournament and cited her left Achilles injury as the cause. She suffered the injury at the Madrid Open, and during the French Open, she played with a tape around her ankle.
my Achilles still isn’t right so I’ll see you next time 🌱👋🏾 pic.twitter.com/mryWdKnitN
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) June 18, 2022
On Saturday, she tweeted, “My Achilles still isn’t right, so I’ll see you next time.” The tennis ace also attached a note which suggested that she was currently in the process of coping with “stressful times.”
The four-time Grand Slam champion previously said she might skip the Wimbledon mainly because ranking points would not be awarded this year. According to the ATP and WTA, this was due to the event banning Russian and Belarusian players due to their countries’ invasion of Ukraine.
Osaka hinted at her absence when she spoke to the reporters after her French Open loss. The 24-year-old said, “I’m not sure why, but I feel like if I play Wimbledon without points, it’s more like an exhibition. I know this isn’t true, right? But my brain just like feels that way.”
“Whenever I think something is like an exhibition, I just can’t go at it 100%. I didn’t even make my decision yet, but I’m leaning more towards not playing given the current circumstances, but that might change,” she added.