Naomi Osaka Partnership With LeBron James Creates Controversy Due to Explicit Translation of Company Name

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This week a new partnership between tennis star Naomi Osaka and NBA star LeBron James was announced. Osaka is launching a new media company in collaboration with LeBron’s media group, The SpringHill Company.

A press release says Osaka’s production company, Hana Kuma, will produce scripted and nonfiction content. Its first project will be a documentary from The New York Times. The subject of the documentary will be Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress.

The announcement of the partnership created a bit of controversy on social media, but not because Osaka and LeBron are teaming up or the subject matter that they plan to cover.

Naomi Osaka and LeBron James
Tennis Player, Naomi Osaka poses for a photo with LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers after the game in 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

An explicit translation of the name is what has created the controversy

The name of the four-time Grand Slam champion’s production company is what has sparked the controversy. Osaka, who was born in Japan, told the New York Times earlier this week that Hana Kuma means “flower bear” in Japanese.

That doesn’t seem to be worthy of much controversy, because it’s not. An explicit translation of the name is what has created the controversy. In Swahili, Hana Kuma has a much different meaning than ‘flower bear’.

Hana Kuma in Swahili translates to “woman without a vagina.” The explicit translation sparked outrage and caused Hana Kuma to trend in several African countries. Some questioned how they didn’t know about this translation and others have called for Osaka to rename the company.

Do I think Osaka and/or LeBron did this on purpose? No, I don’t.

Should they have done more research before deciding on the name? Probably, it’s estimated that as many as 200 million people speak Swahili worldwide.

Whether they did it on purpose or they should have done more research, a couple of things are pretty clear about this controversy. People aren’t happy about it and it’s a very funny controversy to be wrapped up in.

Leave it up to Osaka and LeBron to find themselves caught up in something like this.

Written by Sean Joseph


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