NBA superstar LeBron James and four-time tennis grand slam champion Naomi Osaka are in some hot water over the name of their new media company. Hana Kuma, the current name of the media company means “flower bear” in Japanese, according to Osaka. But it has another meaning on Swahili, where it translates to “Woman without a vagina.”
An estimated 200 million people speak Swahili, the majority in East Africa. Naturally, everyone is now overreacting and coming at Osaka and to a lesser extent James. But what are we doing with this?
prayers for all my overthinkers. We be going through it 😔
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) June 22, 2022
Based on Osaka’s tweet it’s clear that when she came up with the name or went through the process, she didn’t think about the word having meaning in another language. Osaka is a Japanese player of Haitian decent, it’s easy to understand why Swahili wasn’t top of mind for her. Though Twitter would have you think otherwise.
Hana Kuma operates in partnership with James’ SpringHill, an entertainment development and production company. Osaka’s imprint is to include scripted and unscripted television series, documentaries, anime and branded content.
James tweeted that the media company is an empowerment story when the news of the collaboration broke.
There’s reason we call ourselves an Empowerment Company. This incredible woman and the stories she is going to bring to life is EXACTLY what we about!!!Incredibly proud to call her my partner. @naomiosaka @makespringhill #MoreThananAthlete https://t.co/mellHFKP9Q
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 21, 2022
“I honestly can’t say if I’ll personally be in anything right now,” Osaka said. “What excites me is being able to inspire people and tell new stories, particularly ones that I would have wanted to see when I was a kid. I always wanted to kind of see someone like me.”
Many people have chimed in on Twitter urging Osaka to change the name as it is offensive, she has yet to make a public statement beyond the tweet.
One Twitter user in Kenya warned Osaka that the name they chose would make a mockery of its goals to many Africans.
According to Breitbart, one Twitter user said:
“If you keep the name #hanakuma, the name will override the news and the stories you wish to share,” the user wrote.
Another African social media user warned that many of her fellow Africans wouldn’t even be able to say the name of Osaka’s company out loud. “East Africans cannot say this even in whispers,” the user wrote.
In today’s climate you can find just about anything offensive. That’s not to say there aren’t real reasons to be offended, because there are plenty. But the idea that there should be some huge referendum or handwringing about this is a bit overboard.
As a Japanese woman, that part of her heritage is what she was focused on. Of course the fact that she is of Haitian descent complicates things a little if you want to look at the African diaspora. But that’s going a bit too deep for something that doesn’t warrant it.
If content from her company finds its way to East Africa then perhaps she would need to address the name, otherwise this is all much ado about nothing.
Beyond Osaka’s statement about stories she would have wanted to see as a kid, as it relates to representation, not much is known about what else might be in development.
She has been outspoken in her support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the importance of mental health in sports. Those are areas where we could potentially see content from Hana Kuma.
Osaka is not playing Wimbledon, which is currently underway in England, as she is still recovering from an Achilles injury.
my Achilles still isn’t right so I’ll see you next time 🌱👋🏾 pic.twitter.com/mryWdKnitN
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) June 18, 2022
James also hasn’t said anything about the controversy surrounding his partner. As NBA free agency approaches he likely has other things on his mind.