A female Japanese comedy duo has received backlash for making racist comments about tennis star Naomi Osaka. They made the remarks when the 21-year-old beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to win the Pan Pacific Open over the weekend in Osaka, Japan.
The comedy team, called “A Masso,” made the comments at an event on Sunday, on the same day Osaka received her trophy, when they said she “needed some bleach” and “she is too sunburned.”
Both women, as well as their management company Watanabe Entertainment Co Ltd, issued a general apology afterward, but they didn’t relay it to the tennis star specifically.
Osaka, who was born in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan, and is currently ranked No. 4 in the world in women’s tennis, has a Haitian father and Japanese mother, and she moved to the United States as a young child.
“Though we should have thought about it, we made remarks that hurt many people, something we will never do again,” wrote one of the women, Ai Murakami, on Watanabe Entertainment’s website.
“We sincerely apologize for making the specific person feel uncomfortable, as well as for everyone else connected to the event. We also sincerely apologize for causing trouble,” she added.
The women also said they recognized their comments were “inappropriate” and “hurtful.” And their management company wrote the women’s “Remarks [were] inconsiderate of diversity in an era where diversity is respect.”
Watanabe Entertainment also stated the comedy pair have been warned about repeating similar behavior in the future and measures were taken to help them understand the magnitude of their racist speech.
Osaka faced racism earlier this year as well, when the noodle company Nissin created an animated commercial that showed her with pale skin and light hair.
“There is no intention of whitewashing,” a spokesperson for Nissin told the Guardian at that time. “We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issues in the future.”
Osaka has yet to comment on the comedy duo’s remarks.