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Osaka becomes part owner of US women's pro soccer club

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Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka
PA/Supplied

Three-time Grand Slam tennis champion Naomi Osaka of Japan has become an investor in the North Carolina Courage of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), the American squad announced Thursday.

Osaka, the reigning US Open champion, was introduced in a video showing highlights of her tennis career and the team's history, which includes 2018 and 2019 league titles, under the motto: "Courage Unites Us."

"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.

"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, 23, was named by Forbes magazine as the world's highest paid female athlete in 2020.

The Courage said it plans to tap into Osaka's passion for fashion by bringing the new part-owner into design decisions for 2021.

"I am thrilled to welcome Naomi as an owner of the North Carolina Courage," said club chairman Steve Malik, who purchased the Western New York Flash in 2017 and moved it to the Raleigh area.

"Naomi embodies the values we have been striving to cultivate at our club and she brings an invaluable viewpoint on topics beyond sports. I cannot think of anyone better to help us as we continue to make a difference in our community and inspire the next generation of women."

Osaka, whose Grand Slam victories include the 2018 and 2020 US Opens and 2019 Australian Opens, was the first Asian player to be ranked as world No 1. She also inspired with social activism last year in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

"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."

Osaka is not the first celebrity owner in the NWSL, the third and most successful attempt to launch a top-level US female football league.

Angel City FC in Los Angeles, a 2022 NWSL expansion club, has tennis star Serena Williams, actresses Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Garner and Jessica Chastain and retired football star Mia Hamm in its ownership group.

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