Former Tennis world no.1 Naomi Osaka has been swamped with backlash over her new ‘Hana Kuma’ media platform with partner Lebron James – as the business name implies a very explicit message in Swahilian.
The Japanese star has joined forces with recently announced billionaire Lebron James, to kickstart a storytelling medium that releases culturally specific narratives to a wider audience.
‘Hana Kuma’, which translates to flower bear in Japanese, is another venture of Osaka’s, who became the world’s highest paid female athlete in 2020, earning $37million.
Lebron James (left) and Naomi Osaka (right) pose for a photo after a Los Angeles Lakers game at the Staples centre in 2019 – they are now business partners for the media production company ‘Hana Kuma’
In Swahilian, an East-African language spoken across 14 countries like Kenya and Tanzania, the native phrase is barely whispered, as it means ‘a woman with no vagina’.
Many East-African supporters of Osaka have asked that she change the name of her new venture, to respect the language miscommunication.
‘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!’ a Twitter user posted.
Naomi Osaka reacts to her first round match against Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva on day one of the 2019 Wimbledon – where she has just withdrawn from this years major due to an ongoing achilles injury
Swahili is listed in the world’s top 10 most spoken languages and more than 200 million people speak the tongue.
On June 22, Osaka tweeted ‘prayers for all my overthinkers. We be going through it’.
Whether a direct comment on the discourse surrounding the name, the production company has the intention to empower people from many different walks of life.
The first project is a documentary in collaboration with the New York Times about the first woman of colour sworn in to Congress, Patsy Mink.
The 24-year-old four-time grand slam champion pulled out of this year’s Wimbledon to start on June 27, after struggling to recover from an ongoing achilles injury.
Her new company launch adds to yet another initiative turned from idea to invention with agent Stuart Duguid.
Lebron James. (right) with business partner Maverick Carter (left) and rapper 2 Chainz (centre) at the Victory Uninterrupted Hollywood Athletic club in 2019
Osaka and Duguid burst onto the sports business scene with the rise of Evolve, a management platform that helps professional athletes communicate with brand partnerships and investments.
Aussie Tennis hothead Nick Kyrgios was the first star to join the company, as Osaka said the Canberran was a player who transcends their sport, with unique style, passion and personality.
Meanwhile, four-time finals MVP and champion Lebron James has become the second NBA player to amass a net worth of $1billion.
TheSpringHill company, founded by James and his business associate Maverick Carter, will help fund, operate and produce content for the Hana Kuma startup.