Naomi Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam champion and new mom, is using her platform to advocate for federally mandated national paid family and medical leave in the United States.
In a recent ad campaign for the baby formula brand Bobbie, Osaka shares her personal journey into motherhood and highlights the challenges faced by many American parents due to the lack of federal paid leave.
Osaka’s Personal Journey
Osaka, who initially revealed her pregnancy during the 2022 Australian Open, gave birth to her daughter, Shai, in July 2023, with rapper Cordae. Reflecting on her experience as a new mom, she acknowledges the difficulties and joys that come with parenthood. Osaka emphasizes the misconception that mothers, especially, are told that having a baby will hinder their personal goals.
“Being a parent is hard. As a professional athlete I am no stranger to hard work or early mornings, but the last 6 months as a new mom has given me a whole new appreciation and understanding of what parents do every single day,” said the tennis star in her Bobbie campaign.
She continued, “Parents, moms in particular, are historically told that babies will be a barrier to personal goals – that they will stop you from achieving your dreams. But I have discovered that Shai is my ultimate motivator; she makes me want to achieve greatness. I’m proud of myself for continuing to chase my dreams while also being a mom. And I recognize that I’m fortunate to have the support to return to work this month on my own terms, in my own time. So many American parents don’t have that choice. But we ALL deserve it.”
Advocacy for Paid Leave
In the ad campaign, Osaka partners with Bobbie to address the lack of federally mandated national paid leave in the U.S. She points out that while 84 percent of Americans support paid leave, a staggering 73 percent of parents do not have access to it.
“When I heard the stats, I was really shocked,” Osaka told Glamour. “I’m lucky enough to not have to go straight into work, but I needed that time to process everything that’s happened and, of course, get to know my baby.“
She added, “And to see that there are so many women that don’t have that choice, and they have to immediately go straight to work, is really sad.”
The State of Paid Family and Medical Leave in the U.S.
According to a fact sheet from left-leaning public policy research and advocacy organization Center for American Progress, 73 percent of Americans do not have paid leave through their workplaces. No federal law currently provides a right to paid family or medical leave. There are state laws in eleven states that have passed laws mandating paid family leave (for both women and men).
The United States and six other countries in the United Nations, including New Guinea, Suriname, and a few other island nations in the South Pacific without a mandatory paid leave for new parents, according to Forbes.
Hopes for national paid leave faced a setback in 2021 as Democrats removed a groundbreaking policy from President Joe Biden’s expansive social safety net package.
Initially, Biden proposed a 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave in his economic agenda. However, the proposal was gradually scaled back to four weeks and eventually scrapped entirely following resistance from nominally Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The proposed Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act still aims to make it a federal law.
Osaka urges for the passage of the FAMILY Act, which proposes 12 weeks of paid leave, job protection, and a minimum monthly benefit of $580.
“If passed, the Family and Medical Leave Act would give 12 weeks paid leave, job protection, and guarantee a minimum monthly benefit of $580,” said Osaka.
As part of their initiative, Osaka and Bobbie are providing financial assistance to 50 families through the N.O. Support Grants. Each grant is $580, symbolizing the proposed monthly benefit of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Together with Bobbie’s ad campaign, Glamour and Paid Leave for All are pushing for congress to consider a petition for FAMILY.
Osaka’s Return to Tennis
Osaka, who has an estimated net worth of $45 million, recently made her return to professional tennis at the Brisbane International, marking her first major competition since becoming a mother.