CARY, NC (January 28, 2021) – Global sports icon and tennis superstar Naomi Osaka has invested in North Carolina Courage, the club announced today. Naomi is the first investor in Courage since Steve Malik took over the team in 2017 and relocated to North Carolina.
Named Forbes Highest Paid Athlete in 2020, Naomi shows her commitment to inspiring the next generation of women athletes by investing her time and money in one of the best professional football teams for women in the world.
“The women who invested in me made me who I am today and I can’t imagine where my life would be without them,” Naomi said. “My investment in the North Carolina Courage is much more than just being a team owner. It is an investment in amazing women who are role models and leaders in their fields and who inspire all young female athletes. I also admire everything Courage for Diversity and Equality does in the community, and I am very much looking forward to supporting and driving it forward.”
Naomi, the daughter of a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, became the first Asian player to hold the No. 1 singles and the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam. The 23-year-old was named Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year in 2020 for both her strong performance on the pitch and her extrajudicial activism. Naomi used her platform like the members of NC Courage in 2020 as a stage for social activism in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I am delighted to have Naomi as the owner of the North Carolina Courage,” said Malik, chairman of the North Carolina Courage. “Naomi embodies the values we wanted to nurture in our club and she brings an invaluable point of view on issues beyond sport. I can’t think of a better one to help us as we continue to make a difference in our community and inspire the next generation of women. “
In terms of competitive performance, parallels can be drawn between Naomi and the team she has invested in. The two are no strangers to success, as Naomi has won three Grand Slam titles (2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open, 2020 US Open) and Courage has won six trophies in four years (two NWSL championships, three NWSL Shields and the International Women’s Cup).
With over 13,000 players, The Courage is part of the largest youth and professional football club in the United States, which is organically oriented towards the Naomi Osaka Play Academy, an initiative that aims to change the lives of girls through games and sports. Naomi’s program is part of Nike’s Made to Play commitment to getting more kids around the world moving. Play Academy offers young girls a fun, positive experience with an emphasis on gender coaching and programming to break down barriers for girls in sport.
“Naomi is a perfect fit as an owner because her values align so well with our club,” said Curt Johnson, Courage president and general manager of North Carolina. “A team with an exemplary and groundbreaking list of world-class professional athletes, supported by a globally influential icon, is a critical moment for our sport and the Courage organization.”
The Courage is also excited to harness Naomi’s passion and talent for fashion and plans to include the tennis star in its design decisions in 2021.
About Naomi Osaka
One of the most explosive and influential tennis players of all time, Naomi Osaka is the first Asian player to hold the No. 1 singles and the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam. In 2013 Osaka entered the WTA professional circle as a rising star and quickly gained attention from fans and the media thanks to her strong serve and strong forehand. Two years later, in 2018, Naomi had one of the strongest seasons to date, winning two Grand Slams. In 2020, Osaka won their second US Open title, which caught the world’s attention amid a pandemic and social unrest. In 2020, Osaka was named Athletic Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year, Top Performing Woman in Sports Weeks, Highest Paid Athlete of All Time by Forbes, and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Her name also became known as the voice of activism on and off the court, with bold statements publicizing the names of victims of police brutality and highlighting social inequality across our nation. 2020 also highlighted Naomi’s love of anything fashion-related when she made her first appearance at New York Fashion Week, showcasing a compilation she had designed with Adeam. In addition, Osaka is pursuing her love of art, fashion and design with a second collection with Adeam and Mastercard based on the cities of Japan. Osaka’s various brand partnerships include Nike, Mastercard, Beats, Nissan, PlayStation and Louis Vuitton, making her the most marketable female athlete in the world. The proud daughter of a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, Naomi was born in Osaka, Japan. She moved to the United States with her family when she was 3 years old. She represents Japan in the competition and will be the face of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Osaka currently lives full-time in Los Angeles, CA.
About the courage of North Carolina
The North Carolina Courage is the consecutive champion of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the highest division of professional women’s football in the United States. Steve Malik, formerly Western New York Flash, moved the team to North Carolina in 2017 and named the team North Carolina Courage. He nodded to the WPS’s Carolina Courage, the state’s first professional women’s soccer team. The courage is trained by the two-time NWSL coach of the year, Paul Riley. The team defeated the Portland Thorns 3-0 and became NWSL champions in 2018. The team then defeated the Chicago Red Stars 4-0 and won two titles in a row. Riley’s team has won three NWSL Shields in a row and also won the Women’s International Champions Cup 2018. On January 22nd, 2021, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka was named owner of the team.