Tennis champion Naomi Osaka, a three-time Grand Slam tennis champion, announced on Thursday morning that she is investing in National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team North Carolina Courage and becoming a partial owner of the team.
“Currently reflecting on how the women who have invested in me growing up made me who I am today,” Osaka, 23, wrote in an Instagram post. “I actually don’t know where I would be without them. I feel that throughout my career I’ve always received so much love from my fellow female athletes.”
North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik acquired and relocated the NC Courage to our state in 2017, where the soccer team has gone on to win back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019. While he will retain majority ownership, Osaka is the first person since Malik to invest in the team.
The women who have invested in me growing up made me who I am today, I don’t know where I would be without them. Throughout my career I’ve always received so much love from my fellow female athletes so that’s why I am proud to share that I am now a owner of @TheNCCourage ⚽️❤️ pic.twitter.com/Iz0YcVvOqz
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) January 28, 2021
“I am thrilled to welcome Naomi as an owner of the North Carolina Courage,” Malik said in a NC Courage press release. “Naomi embodies the values we have been striving to cultivate at our club, and she brings an invaluable viewpoint on topics beyond sports. I cannot think of anyone better to help us as we continue to make a difference in our community and inspire the next generation of women.”
The NC Courage has had a legacy of empowerment, with players like Crystal Dunn—who played for the NC Courage until October 2020, when she traded to the Portland Thorns—vocally advocating for equal pay.
Osaka has used her time on the court as an advocate of female empowerment and the Black Lives Matter movement. During the 2020 U.S. Open, she played each of her seven matches wearing a face mask that bore the names of Black victims—including Tamir Rice, George Floyd, and Elijah McClain—of racist and/or police violence.
In 2020 alone, Osaka—the daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother—was named Forbes’ Highest Paid Female Athlete and Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year. She is the first Asian player to hold the No. 1 ranking in singles, and the first Japanese player to ever win a Grand Slam.
In recent years, other female athletes have shifted toward NWSL investments: Angel City FC has a high-profile ownership group that includes luminaries like Serena Williams, Abby Wambach, and Mia Hamm. Osaka’s stake, though, is particular influential for being a singular investment.
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