Three-time Grand Slam singles champion Naomi Osaka has invested in the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League, citing a desire to support women as role models and leaders.
Osaka is the first investor in the Courage since Steve Malik acquired the Western New York Flash and moved the team to North Carolina in 2017. The Courage have won two NWSL titles since the move.
“The women who have invested in me growing up made me who I am today and I cannot think of where my life would be without them,” Osaka said in a statement. “My investment in the North Carolina Courage is far beyond just being a team owner, it’s an investment in amazing women who are role models and leaders in their fields and inspirations to all young female athletes. I also admire everything the Courage does for diversity and equality in the community, which I greatly look forward to supporting and driving forward.”
Osaka is not the only prominent tennis player to own a stake in an NWSL team. Serena Williams is among a group of prominent investors in Angel City FC, a Los Angeles expansion club set to start play in 2022. Other athletes have also invested in soccer teams, including LeBron James (Liverpool) and Kevin Durant (Philadelphia Union).
Osaka, who was named the AP Female Athlete of the Year in 2020, is preparing for the Australian Open, set to start Feb. 8. The 23-year-old won the event in 2019, and has also won two U.S. Open titles. She ended last year ranked No. 3 in the world.
Osaka has also used her voice for racial justice. She joined athletes in the NBA and other sports last year when she decided not to play in a tune-up event for the U.S. Open in protest of the shooting of James Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. During the U.S. Open, she wore face masks bearing the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin and others.
“Naomi is the perfect fit as an owner because her values sync so well with our club,” Courage President Curt Johnson said. “A team with an exemplary and trailblazing roster of world-class professional athletes supported by a globally influential icon is a seminal moment for our sport and the Courage organization.”
The 10-team NWSL, with Racing Louisville joining this season, is set to open its ninth season May 15. Each team will play 24 games, with six reaching the playoffs. The regular season will end Oct. 30.
The league will stage the preseason Challenge Cup tournament in local markets starting on April 9.
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