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Naomi Osaka’s treatment raises question: Are pro athletes exploited workers?



The bosses of the sports-industrial complex treat a professional athlete as a mere appendage of the game. This was underscored recently by the treatment of tennis superstar Naomi Osaka.



Since her win in the 2018 U.S. Open, an insensitive — and worse — barrage of reporter comments has compounded her struggles with depression and anxiety. Osaka — whose mother is Japanese and father is Haitian —





has been questioned about everything from her race, nationality, age and mental health challenges to her on-court performance against Serena Williams and her principled solidarity with Black Lives Matter.



Osaka was fined $15,000 after declining to participate in post-match media interviews during the French Open. This spotlights, for the umpteenth time, the commodification of even highly paid — and highly skilled — professional athletes. They are chastised and punished when they prioritize their personal well-being over their sport.



Osaka withdrew from the competition altogether “to protect my mental health.” Women and gender-oppressed athletes are treated as second-class players, if that. Not only are they insulted, diminished, marginalized and sexualized, they are grossly underpaid. Megan Rapinoe, captain of the U.S. women’s soccer team, is leading a sex-discrimination class action lawsuit over pay discrepancies between men and women in pro soccer.

Women, gender-oppressed and LGBTQ+ players of color are doubly and triply abused in the cesspool of bigotry that is professional sports. In the final analysis, even with high salaries, athletes are still workers and are expected to generate profit — what Marxists call surplus value — for the team owners.

We hail the courage of Naomi Osaka and all those who have taken on white supremacy, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ2S+ bigotry, ableism and the profits-before-people mindset — on and off the playing field.

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