The US Open tennis tournament kicks off Monday after a wave of protests in the sports world that has stalled professional tennis, basketball, baseball and soccer competition this week.
After tennis star Naomi Osaka had initially abandoned her match in protest at the Western & Southern Open, a forerunner of the US Open, she won her semi-final game and finally took second place.
"[The WTA and USTA] have offered to reschedule all games to Friday and I think that brings more attention to the movement," Osaka told The Guardian.
Billie Jean King, a 39-time Grand Slam champion and part of the Original Nine who pioneered women's equality in professional tennis 50 years ago, praised Osaka for using their platform.
"This is really the moment we can really, really change things," King said in an interview with CNBC's Squawk Box taped Thursday. "We will continue to use our platform at the US Open for positive change, for equality and for justice."
Osaka, 22, made $ 37 million between May 2019 and May 2020, more than any other female athlete, according to Forbes.
"We knew immediately that the right decision was to support our athletes, but also support our sport by taking this break on Thursday," said Michael Dowse, CEO of the United States Tennis Association, in an interview on Squawk Box . "It is important that we start again together on this global stage."
The US Open attracts tourists from around the world and has traditionally been a boom for New York's economy.
Dowse said revenue that depends on broadcast and sponsorship deals will drop 80% this year without fans. The organization had to use its reserves to finance the tournament. In 2019, 737,872 people took part in the US Open over two weeks and generated sales of 400 million US dollars.
"We don't have any fans in sight, but that doesn't mean we don't have fans around the world following the sport. Everyone was hungry to see world-class tennis again," said Dowse on Friday morning from an empty Arthur Ashe- Stadion.
Unlike the NBA's bubble, the USTA implements a tiered system for monitoring the health of players, media, and event staff. Players and their guests who are part of Tier 1 are tested every four days.
"The US Open was very, very adaptable," said King. "It really comes down to personal responsibility and that they have their two bubbles, one for the players and one for the support team and everyone – they try to get it right."
Dowse hopes the tournament will inspire more Americans to take up the sport of tennis, which he highlights as the outlier of the pandemic.
"People have come to realize that tennis is the perfect social distance sport," says Dowse. "We are cautiously optimistic that we will have fans in the stadium again next year."