Naomi Osaka sponsor apologises for ‘whitewashing’ tennis star in ad

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Noodle company Nissin says it will ‘pay more attention to diversity issues in the future’
One of Naomi Osaka’s sponsors has been forced to apologise after depicting the Japanese tennis star, who is half-Haitian, with pale skin in an advertisement.

Nissin featured Osaka in an ad for its Cup Noodle range of instant ramen. It depicts Osaka, who holds dual Japanese and American citizenship, with pale skin, wavy brown hair and Caucasian facial features.

The company said it had not intended to “whitewash” the athlete, who became a national hero in Japan after beating Serena Williams to win the women’s singles title at the US Open in September last year.

“There is no intention of whitewashing,” a Nissin spokesperson said. “We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more to diversity issues in the future.”

The company did not say what would become of the “Hungry to Win” ad, which was designed by Takeshi Konomi, a veteran manga artist best known for his popular Prince of Tennis series. The spokesman said the ad had been created in keeping with Konomi’s trademark style.

The ad, which also features her compatriot Kei Nishikori, drew criticism on social media, with many users accusing Nissin of whitewashing Osaka, whose mother is Japanese.

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