Comedians and management apologise for saying the tennis pro “needs bleach”.

Ever since winning the Australian Open and the U.S. Open against her idol Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka has become a household name in Japan. And while people are in awe of her sensational tennis skills, off the court there’s been a lot of chatter about the Japanese national’s mixed heritage.

Born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, and brought up in the United States from the age of three, Osaka doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mould of a typical Japanese national. And though her mixed background shouldn’t really be an issue for anyone, it’s led to some embarrassing missteps in Japan, where she’s been continuously asked to speak in Japanese, and even whitewashed in a commercial for noodle brand Nissin.

Now Osaka’s physical appearance has become the centre of a news story yet again, after a comedy act said she needed “bleach” for being “too tanned”.

The joke was performed live as part of a skit by Ai Murakami and Aiko Kanou — who make up the comedy duo “A Masso” — at a free event at Futakotamagawa in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward on 22 September.

▼ The event, called “Omoide Yaro A Team presents Ura Tora Soul Picnic”, was held at Futakotamagawa’s Rise Shopping complex.

During the comedy skit, A Masso began discussing products that can be purchased at pharmacies, when Murakami asked, “What does Naomi Osaka need?“, to which Kanou replied, “Bleach. Because she’s too tanned.

▼ Comedy duo A Masso at the event.

Attendees were appalled by the joke, with many taking to social media to express their anger. More and more voices chimed in online, admonishing the pair for their racist comments, prompting the duo and their management, Watanabe Entertainment, to issue a public apology the next day.

The apology from Watanabe Entertainment reads:

1. Apology
During a live performance by our comedy act A Masso (Murakami and Kanou) at “Omoide Yaro A Team presents Ura Tora Soul Picnic” on 22 September, a comment was made about a certain person that was insensitive to diversity issues, and for that we sincerely apologise to the person, everyone at Omoide Yaro A Team, the attendees who were there during the live event on the day, everyone who felt uncomfortable about this incident, and all those connected to the event.

We live in an era where diversity is important, so as the management company responsible for supervising A Masso, we are taking the insensitive remarks made during A Masso’s live performance very seriously.

2. Dedication to improving diversity awareness
Our company philosophy is to contribute to society through entertainment, and we have implemented measures to ensure compliance by our talent and all employees to improve diversity awareness that respects the unique characteristics of every individual.

However, since A Masso made insensitive comments, both its members have been reprimanded, and today we held a lecture under the guidance of our company and our company’s legal advisor — with support from diversity management professionals and advice from a lawyer that specialises in antiracism — to further improve knowledge of diversity issues.

In the future, we will continue to improve diversity awareness amongst our employees and our talent, including A Masso.

3. Looking ahead
Once again, as the production company for A Masso, we would like to deeply apologise for causing such trouble to everybody.
In order to prevent this from happening in future, we will further improve diversity awareness amongst our talent and all employees, so that our talent production may contribute widely to society through entertainment.

▼ The apology from Watanabe Entertainment.

Murakami and Kanou also issued public apologies, penned by hand and published underneath the apology from Watanabe Entertainment on the production company’s website.

The apology from Murakami reads:

“I am terribly sorry.
I really feel terrible for causing trouble to all those involved. 
I misunderstood. Though I should have understood when I thought about it, I made a remark that offended many people. 
It wasn’t like I thought I could say whatever I wanted or that it was okay to hurt people, but that’s what I did with my remarks this time.
I was truly ignorant. And I am truly sorry. 
I will never do anything like this again.
To those whom I made feel uncomfortable — the person themselves, everybody, the staff involved in the event, the other performers — I am truly sorry for causing you trouble.”

▼ The apology from Murakami.

The apology from Kanou reads:

“I made inappropriate and insensitive remarks the other day at the Omoide Yaro A Team event.
Firstly to the person themselves, all the members who invited us, the organisers, the staff, and everyone who came to the event, I am very sorry.
I mistook it for comedy, and although it’s too late now, I regret that such a disgusting comment was made.
As someone who works in front of the public, my conduct was absolutely improper.
I am taking this incident very seriously to ensure that this will not happen again.
I am very sorry.”

▼ Kanou’s apology.

Both comedians and their management refrained from naming Osaka as “the person” mentioned in their statements. However, now that news of the incident is making its way across the world, there’s no mistaking the identity of the person to whom these apologies are addressed.

Osaka, who won the Pan Pacific Open title in her hometown of Osaka on the same day as the comedy duo’s controversial performance, is yet to make any comment on the incident. If she does decide to speak to the Japanese media about it, though, hopefully they won’t ask her to speak in Japanese.

Source: My Game News Flash
Featured image: Wikipedia/Baynosuke
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Watanabe Entertainment
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