Saka, Sterling, Rashford: Tennis star Naomi Osaka shows support after racist abuse

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Tennis star Naomi Osaka has posted a photo in support of English footballers Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho, who were racially abused after missing penalties in the Euro 2020 Final.

England were seeking their first major tournament title in 55 years as they met Italy at Wembley Stadium for the Euro 2020 Final. The match was a tense affair, going all the way to extra-time and finishing a 1-1 draw.

Rashford, Sancho and Saka stepped up to take penalties during the resulting shoot-out, but all three players failed to score. Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma secured the victory for Italy after saving Saka’s penalty attempt.

While Italy celebrated their Euro 2020 win, Rashford, Sancho and Saka were already receiving a torrent of racial abuse on social media for their penalty misses. The Football Association and UEFA have since condemned the abuse, while The Metropolitan Police has confirmed it is “totally unacceptable, it will not be tolerated and it will be investigated.”

Sterling has previously been the victim of racist abuse on social media. The 26-year-old Manchester City star has been vocal in the past about standing against discrimination.

In response to the racist abuse received by Rashford, Sancho, Saka and Sterling, social media users have voiced their support for all four players. This includes four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka, who posted on Twitter a photo of the four footballers with golden crowns above their heads.

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The 23-year-old Osaka is another sports star to speak out about racism, even staging a protest at last year’s US Open. Before each match, Osaka entered the Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing a facemask bearing the name of a victim of racism and police brutality in the United States. Her run in the tournament was a winning one, giving her the opportunity to wear seven different masks in total.

Osaka stepped back from the spotlight in June after withdrawing from the French Open. She had chosen to avoid press conferences at the Grand Slam, a decision which sparked an avalanche of debate and criticism. In response, Osaka pulled out of the tournament completely in order to protect her mental health.

Rashford is the same age as Osaka, while Sancho is 21-years-old and Saka just 19-years-old. Osaka is likely able to relate to the three footballers and the pressures they are facing as young athletes in the world of sport. 

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