Four-time Grand Slam tennis champ Naomi Osaka is being hit with backlash over the unintentionally — or cluelessly, depending on whom you ask — offensive name of her new media company, Hana Kuma.
The sporting superstar, who was born in Japan, told the New York Times Tuesday that hana kuma means “flower bear” in Japanese — but Twitter users quickly noted it has a far more explicit meaning in Swahili, where it translates to “woman without a vagina.”
The lost-in-translation controversy began trending on Twitter in multiple African countries, with dozens of users urging Osaka, 24, to change the name of the company, which she founded in partnership with NBA legend LeBron James, 37.
“Naomi Osaka has partnered with LeBron James to start a media company called Hana Kuma. Well, this ‘Hana Kuma’ name means something different in Swahili. I won’t say it,” Ugandan journalist Daniel Kibet tweeted.
“Did they do a global search on what the name means?” another asked. “She should have been well advised [that] it has a very vulgar meaning in Swahili which is spoken by many people.”
A third blasted: “Amazing the lack of research. Lots of money but that brand won’t fly in Africa. Let it stay in America and Japan. It’s offensive. Do you even have a clue what it means? Get rid of your ego and change the name. God forgive your ignorance.”
Another also urged Osaka to consider a name change, stating: “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!”
Swahili is estimated to be spoken by approximately 200 million around the world, with a majority of speakers concentrated in East Africa. Osaka hasn’t yet responded to the controversy, but she shared a cryptic tweet Wednesday night, writing: “Prayers for all my overthinkers. We be going through it.”
Osaka told the Times that she hopes Hana Kuma will become a top Hollywood media company that produces TV shows, documentaries and branded content. The company has been founded in partnership with SpringHill — a marketing firm co-founded by James.
Osaka — who was born to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father — said the company will place an emphasis on diverse storytelling.
“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,” she stated. “I always wanted to kind of see someone like me.”
The tennis ace is currently the world’s highest-paid female athlete, raking in a whopping $57 million last year.
Much of Osaka’s earnings come from endorsement deals, with the savvy star inking lucrative partnerships with brands including Nike and Louis Vuitton.
Earlier this week, the former World No. 1 announced she was withdrawing from the upcoming Wimbledon tournament, due to an Achilles injury.