“International Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated document in the world.”United Nations
At Kids in the Game it is our mission to provide positive experiences and opportunities through sports and creative play for all youth across New York City. Over the last year, education equity and equality has come to the forefront of conversation across the world alongside the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Kids in the Game Foundation has looked to do our part by creating scholarship funds such as The Real MVP Fund and the Continuing Education Fund.
As an organization we feel that is our job to continue to spread the message of equality not just through our words but our actions. In a year where our country and the world has been devastated by the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is important to acknowledge the necessity of equality for all people so we can recover together.
As a team we’ve made a commitment to educate ourselves and the people around us. And today, we are taking the time to learn about athletes who have used their platform for activism. Our spotlight today shines upon Naomi Osaka. Many know Osaka as the uber talented tennis player who came from a set down to win her second US Open title this year. She then became the No. 1 player in the world, all before the age of 23.
Just a couple of days ago, Osaka won the 2020 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year activist athlete award. And yes, all the on court success contributed, but it was her work off the court that had the biggest impact. Naomi used her platform to raise awareness and shine light on racial injustice and police brutality across the United States and the rest of the world.
Months before the US Open began, Osaka took the time to visit Minneapolis, specifically the exact spot where George Floyd was brutally murdered by police. These moments of reflection and education are what helped inspire Osaka to use her platform. On the biggest stage in tennis, she would wear a mask with his name on it. For his family, for his community, and for all Black Americans.
Just a month before the US Open began, Osaka was a semifinalist in the Cincinnati Tournament, where she withdrew to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake. Many allowed this to be their moment to speak out, but Naomi made sure her actions spoke as well. She knew this moment was larger than just tennis.
“By wearing seven masks at the U.S. Open— with a new one for every round, each honoring a different Black victim of police violence or a racist attack—Naomi made an extremely powerful statement. Every time she walked out to play people were talking about which name was going to be on the mask. Breonna Taylor. Elijah McClain. Ahmaud Arbery. Trayvon Martin. George Floyd. Philando Castile. Tamir Rice.”Sports Illustrated
At the US Open Naomi brought so much attention to these stories. She is the leader of the next generation of young and amazing women in sports, and she is teaching us all about the impact we can have on the world.
Last year, our team at Kids in the Game looked at celebrities whose values best align with ours, and Michelle Obama was who we found fit best. As Naomi took the world by storm, she was listening to “Becoming,” Michelle Obama’s audiobook. Neither of those women asked to be thrust into the spotlight the way they have been, but they are aware of the position they hold and their weight to affect change. It is important that we as an organization understand how we can affect change, too. Where we channel our resources to make the most impact. As coaches, teachers, and athletes, we can have open and honest conversations with each other and our students, as a voice for kids across NYC.
It is vital that our coaches embody these core values and show youth across the city that no matter where you come from, you can spark change.
Written by Pranav Vaid