Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka and her partner basketball star LeBron James are getting hammered over their new “Hana Kuma” media platform because it means something sexually explicit in Swahili.
The Japanese tennis sensation teamed up with billionaire Lebron James to launch a storytelling medium that caters to a wide audience. Osaka was the world’s highest-paid female athlete in 2020, earning in excess of $37 million according to the Daily Mail. James is the second NBA player to amass a net worth of $1 billion.
“Hana Kuma” means “flower bear” in Japanese. In Swahili, which is spoken in 14 countries including Kenya and Tanzania, the phrase means “a woman with no vagina.”
Naturally, Africans took offense to it even though it is evident that the name is Japanese, not Swahili. Osaka’s fans from East Africa have asked that she change the name of the venture out of respect for its meaning in their language.
Naomi Osaka opens media firm in partnership with LeBron James. pic.twitter.com/sea9Tyg3AW
— NTV Kenya (@ntvkenya) June 21, 2022
On June 22, Osaka tweeted, “Prayers for all my overthinkers. We be going through it.”
“If you keep the name ‘#hanakuma, the name will override the news and the stories you wish to share. The name of the brand is already news! I suggest a change and also, just being a bit respectful to global culture. It’s not overthinking here, it’s protecting a brand!” one Twitter user replied.
If you keep the name '#hanakuma , the name will override the news and the stories you wish to share. The name of the brand is already news! I suggest a change and also, just being a bit respectful to global culture. It's not overthinking here, it's protecting a brand!!
— Esmael Omar (@EsmaelOmarN) June 22, 2022
Another user stated, according to Yahoo! Sports, “East Africans cannot say this even in whispers.”
The backlash against the name has been intense, especially in Kenya. The subject has dominated trending topics since Wednesday, with Citizen TV, which is Kenya’s most-watched news outlet, proclaiming on Twitter that Kenyans were “losing their heads” over the phrase.
Swahili is one of the world’s ten most spoken languages. It is the language of more than 200 million people worldwide.
“There has been an explosion of creators of color finally being equipped with resources and a huge platform,” Osaka, who has a Haitian father and Japanese mother, said in a press release.
“In the streaming age, content has a more global perspective. You can see this in the popularity of television from Asia, Europe, and Latin America that the unique can also be universal,” she continued.
“My story is a testament to that as well. I’m so excited for what we are building at Hana Kuma. We will bring stories to life with this goal in mind: to make unique perspectives feel universal and inspire people along the way,” Osaka proclaimed.
Naomi Osaka is launching her own media company — Hana Kuma — in partnership with LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s The SpringHill Company.
"We'll bring stories to life with this goal: to make unique perspectives feel universal and inspire people along the way” – @naomiosaka pic.twitter.com/hW0rOJ2cav
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) June 21, 2022
The first undertaking of the platform is a leftist documentary in collaboration with The New York Times concerning the first woman of color sworn into Congress, Patsy Mink.
Honored to work with Oscar winning director @bgproudfoot for Hana Kuma’s first project. Patsy’s story resonates as a Japanese woman of color growing up in the US while advocating for change. She leveled the playing field for women athletes to be the legends they are today. #MINK! pic.twitter.com/kfT5YHUYUR
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) June 23, 2022
Osaka, 24, pulled out of Wimbledon this year because she is still recovering from an ongoing Achilles injury.
“My Achilles still isn’t right so I’ll see you next time,” she wrote on Twitter when announcing her withdrawal.
my Achilles still isn’t right so I’ll see you next time 🌱👋🏾 pic.twitter.com/mryWdKnitN
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) June 18, 2022
The four-time grand slam champion’s new company is another venture taken on with her agent Stuart Duguid. Previously, they launched “Evolve,” which is a management platform that helps professional athletes communicate with brand partnerships and investments.
The first to join her new company was Aussie tennis star Nick Kyrgios. Osaka claimed that he transcended their sport, with unique style, passion, and personality.
The SpringHill company, which was founded by LeBron James and his business associate Maverick Carter, will reportedly help fund, operate, and produce content for the “Hana Kuma” venture.
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