It’s one thing to stay in your lane, but it’s an entirely different flex to create your own.
And that’s the case for decorated tennis champion Naomi Osaka, who has reportedly left IMG to launch her own sports agency — EVOLVE.
EXCLUSIVE: @naomiosaka has left IMG to launch her own sports agency, Evolve, which will be stylized as EVOLVE. pic.twitter.com/HxJlbblqII
— Sportico (@Sportico) May 11, 2022
“I’ve spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn’t what was expected or traditional,” Osaka said in regards to the move, according to Bleacher Report. “Evolve is the natural next step in my journey as both an athlete and businesswoman, as well as a way to continue being myself and doing things my way.”
Paving Her Way
According to the outlet, the tennis star is partnering with longtime agent Stuart Duguid to launch the new agency.
Naomi Osaka is leaving IMG to launch her own sports agency — EVOLVE.
She’s the first female athlete at her level to take control of her business endeavors and attempt to build an agency, per @kbadenhausen. pic.twitter.com/A18goBdk6C
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) May 11, 2022
Osaka’s contract with IMG reportedly expired at the end of last year. At that time, she became an independent athlete in similar moves to Lebron James and Kevin Durant. However, Naomi’s new partnership is said to make her the first women athlete to found her own agency.
Advocate On and Off the Court
This news could provide much-needed support to other women and people of color in sports, especially since Osaka has been vocal about athletes implementing boundaries and creating space to deal with their mental health.
In a New York Times exclusive, the tennis champion wrote candidly about how she navigates the mental health space.
“Lesson one: you can never please everyone,” she wrote. “The world is as divided now as I can remember in my short 23 years. Issues that are so obvious to me at face value, like wearing a mask in a pandemic or kneeling to show support for anti-racism, are ferociously contested. I mean, wow. So, when I said I needed to miss French Open press conferences to take care of myself mentally, I should have been prepared for what unfolded.”
While official details about the entire operation of EVOLVE have not been disclosed, the money move from Osaka is no surprise.
AfroTech previously reported that Osaka is the highest-paid woman athlete in sports. In 2021, she pulled in nearly $60 million in prize money and endorsements.
Endorsements for the four-time Grand Slam champion include deals and partnerships with companies like Louis Vuitton, Nike, Mastercard, Tag Heuer, and Beats by Dre.