By Gary Norris Gray

May 30, 2021 Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open because she had issues with her mental health and with being forced to do interviews after matches. The signs of distress were all there, years ago but the sports world ignored them. Ms. Osaka decided to save herself and not the game of tennis. Ms. Williams (Serena) stated she had to deal with the same issues years ago but pushed herself and kept playing to the point of exhaustion. Ms. Osaka is more sensitive because of her shyness but she is strong because she is able to speak out.

Disabled athletes continue have to fight not only the rules of the game but the mental attitude of the games gate keepers, the administrators. Disabled athletes are fighting a two front battle and must win both to be recognized. Naomi Osaka is fighting for all disabled athletes.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers mental issues but the WTA, LPGA, PGA, NFL, NBA, NHL, WNBA, and MLB do not seem to notice. Naomi Osaka might change that paradigm.

 Casey Martin failed to get that inclusion years ago maybe Naomi Osaka will prevail this time.

NBA basketball star Kyrie Irving wrote to Naomi Osaka ” We are all with you queen. Just be you, that will always be enough

Form 1 race car seven time champion Lewis Hamilton understands too because he started at a young age and older drivers did not want him on the track, stating She did not feel comfortable because of her own personal mental health, the backlash against her was ridiculous and people were not taking into account that she is a human being.” Hamilton would add that “Naomi is an incredible athlete and human being and her activism has been so impactful.”

Ms. Osaka impressed me the past two years and after she won the U.S. Open. With her grace, beauty, and kindness while destroying her opponent at the same time. A reporter asked her after the victory in New York, “Why are you wearing the names of deceased African Americans on her mask? She replied “Why do you think?” silencing the reporter. That is the invisible power of Naomi Osaka.

The World Tennis Association (WTA) has reluctantly backed off of Ms. Osaka for the time being because of the world support from athletes.

This article was written 15 years ago and it seems like nothing much has change in the sports world when it comes to the disabled athlete participation. Stay Strong My Sister Naomi Osaka, Stay Strong like Brother Curtis Martin many years ago.

CALIFORNIA– The Supreme Court ruled on Martin playing golf in the Professional Golfing Association (PGA). In a 7- 2-split decision, the court, apart from Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, were the two opposing justices. They stated the PGA does not have a right to ban Martin from using a cart. Scalia and Thomas said that the PGA had the right to set their own rules.

Disabled Americans would all like to see these two justices disabled for a day or maybe even a week, how about a year?  Maybe then they would see the life of challenges faced by the disabled in the United States. Then, maybe, these two men would change their minds.

Golf tournaments are public accommodations and are covered by the 1990 and 1992 Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA); letting Casey Martin use a cart is a reasonable modification that gives him the access required by law.

This could be the landmark court decision most disabled athletes have been looking for. Time and time again disabled athletes have had to conform to their non-disabled sports partners. Playing, if you will, with a double handicap. This is not just, nor is it fair but disabled athletes just keep going, they keep participating.

In this decision, the Supreme Court allowed Martin the use of a golf cart while playing the game he loves. The Court also narrowed the decision only to the Casey Martin case and no other.

Thus, the PGA can still bar individuals from taking a cart on the golf course, but they will not be so aggressive the next time. Many other professional organizations will also evaluate the situation before barring disabled person from their sport.

Martin was born with a disability that slowly takes away the use of muscles in a leg, an arm, or a foot. This process will proceed until the limb is rendered useless. So every day Casey Martin takes to the greens is a day of joy and wonderment, playing with all the other golf professionals.

With this current court decision and the feedback, the PGA has shown its true colors. This organization has no class and wants to stick by its ancient rules, no matter what the case or cause. All of these recent legal procedures caused one of most embarrassing public relations disasters in sports history.

If the world followed the PGA letter of the law rules, disabled athletes in this country would not be allowed to participate in any sport. The PGA should be ashamed of itself because there are so few disabled pro athletes in this world. Actually, you can count them all on one hand.

Wilma Rudolph was the fastest female in the world in 1956 and 1960. Rudolph had to hide her disabilities in order to participate in the Summer Games. She became the first female to win three gold medals in track and field at one Olympic. Rudolph was my first disabled hero.  

Willie O’Ree, the Jackie Robinson of the National Hockey League and played with the Boston Bruins not only broke the color lines in hockey he had to do it with one eye. O’Ree had to hide the fact that he was disabled too, playing the roughest game in North America. The NHL had rules that if you lost an eye you could not play so O’Ree remained silent.

Curtis John Pride of the Atlanta Braves is deaf and this team has won the world championship of baseball. This man cannot hear, but he can hit a baseball and field his position as well as any other baseball player. He just has to pay attention to the game a lot more than his able bodied teammates. His eyes serve double duty and he must be alert at all times.

Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints had a clubfoot. Dempsey was the field goal kicker for the New Orleans Saints. Some people throughout this nation and fellow players said it was an unfair advantage. Dempsey had a square toe shoe on his kicking foot. He broke the national football league record for the longest field goal–a long 63 yards at that time to defeat the Detroit Lions. I was in high school and many disabled kids thought this was fantastic. It was a victory for the Saints and a very happy Tom Dempsey, smiling ear to ear. I felt good seeing a fellow disabled person perform well at any professional sport.

Americans should be ashamed that the Martin case had to be taken to court by a man who just loves the game and wants to play golf. Common sense should have ruled the day.

Sports should be for everyone and if somebody can play the professional game with a disability they should be allowed. If a disabled athlete puts in the time, endures the stress, and shows the dedication he or she should be rewarded just like able-bodied athlete. This athlete should be on the court, diamond, on the field, on the bowling alley, or in the swimming pool, wherever the sport.

Disabled bowlers have had an experience with professional sports being afraid of the unknown. The American Bowling Congress (ABC) wanted disabled bowlers to stop bowling in sanctioned leagues. There are certain rules in their books that state that it is illegal to move the bowling ball with a mechanical object, meaning motorized wheelchairs. The Congress stated it was an unfair advantage for the disabled. Many leagues did not want disabled bowlers with motorized chairs to participate. Many disabled bowlers still have to find disabled friendly leagues, and, even then, some individuals in these leagues did not like it. Finally, many disabled bowlers had a meeting with three ABC representatives about disabled bowlers who could not bowl in leagues throughout America because of this law. Disabled Bowlers had to show them that it really was not an advantage to bowl in a motorized chair.

Disabled Americans finally got ABC to amend the rules just like the Supreme Court has modified the PGA law.

So just like The Civil Rights Laws of the 60’s it will take more time and more understanding. So thank you, Casey Martin, for fighting the fight and hanging tough against the PGA.

Many other disabled athletes respect you, even if you don’t win a single title; you are king of golf in many sports enthusiast book. Tiger Woods and Mr. Sing, move over; Casey Martin is here.

Ms. Osaka has a mountain to climb to change the mental paradigm on disabled issues in the United States, just as Casey Martin did some fifteen years ago.

P.S. Casey Martin, The Stanford grad now faces the possibility of losing the disabled leg after a fall two years ago and breaking it. Martin is still employed at the University of Oregon as men’s golf head coach.

Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove on Disabled Community Activist. Email at GLCGRAY@GMAIL.COM

©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod

One thought on “MARTIN-2005-OSAKA-2021

  1. What a riveting and well-written article!! Congratulations on exposing a long-standing injustice for athletes with disabilities. An honey assessment of a problem that truly bares the soul of the spurts world.🎉🎉


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