- Professional tennis player Naomi Osaka won the 2020 US Open women’s tennis championship on Saturday, marking her second US Open title.
- At this year’s US Open tournament, Osaka made a statement with seven different face masks.
- Each mask she wore while competing was printed with the name of a Black American who was killed in a situation of police violence or racial profiling.
- After her final match of the tournament on Saturday, Osaka told reports that the point of her masks was “to make people start talking.”
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Osaka won her first-round match at the US Open on August 31 wearing a mask printed with the name of Breonna Taylor.
Osaka’s mask on day one of the US Open tennis tournament was printed with the name of Breonna Taylor, 26, who was shot and killed in her Louisville, Kentucky, home, on March 13 while she was sleeping.
After her August 31 win against opponent Misaki Doi, Osaka told reporters – according to Insider’s Meredith Cash – that she had six additional masks that she was prepared to wear for the rest of the tournament.
“I have seven,” Osaka said of her face masks for the US Open. “It’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names, so hopefully I’ll get to the finals and you can see all of them.”
Two days later, Osaka won her match while wearing a face covering that displayed the name of Elijah McClain.
For her September 2 match against Camila Giorgi, Osaka wore a mask honouring Elijah McClain.
McClain, 23, died on August 30, 2019, days after police in Aurora, Colorado, used a carotid hold – which restricts blood to the brain – to restrain him in response to a 911 call made about him while he was walking home from a convenience store, according to the New York Times.
On September 4, Osaka took the court in a mask honouring Ahmaud Arbery.
Osaka’s next mask was printed with the name of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery, who was 25 at the time, was running in his neighbourhood in Brunswick, Georgia, around 1 p.m. on February 23, when he was chased and shot by a 64-year-old former police officer, Gregory McMichael, and his 34-year-old son, Travis McMichael.
The shooting of Arbery was captured on video by a witness in a car, and it prompted a national outcry and demands for justice.
Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., responded to Osaka’s mask in an ESPN interview, saying: “Naomi, I just want to tell you thank you for the support of my family.”
On day seven of the tournament, Osaka’s mask displayed the name of Trayvon Martin.
Osaka, who won her seventh match of the US Open tennis tournament on September 6, next sported a mask with the name of Trayvon Martin.
Martin, who was 17 at the time, was shot and killed on February 26, 2012, by George Zimmerman, who was a neighbourhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman claimed that he shot Martin, who unarmed and leaving a convenience store, out of self-defence.
Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and was later acquitted of the charges.
After Osaka was shown wearing her mask with Travyon Martin’s name, Sabrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, thanked the tennis player in an ESPN interview.
Osaka responded to the ESPN videos of Martin’s mother and Arbery’s father on Twitter, where she wrote: “I often wonder if what I’m doing is resonating and reaching as many people as I hope. That being said, I tried to hold it in on set but after watching these back I cried so much. The strength and the character both of these parents have is beyond me. Love you both, thank you.”
The tennis superstar took the court on September 8 wearing a mask with the name of George Floyd.
Floyd’s death sparked outrage and protests around the country. The four officers involved in the killing have since been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.
Osaka’s face mask worn on September 10 showed the name of Philando Castile.
Osaka’s next mask honoured Philando Castile, 32, who was fatally shot seven times at a traffic stop on July 6, 2016, by Jeronimo Yanez, St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer.
Castille’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, was in the car and filmed the aftermath on Facebook Live in a video that went viral. Her 4-year-old daughter was in the backseat.
On the last day of the tournament, Osaka honoured Tamir Rice with her face covering.
Osaka’s seventh and final face covering worn at the tournament on Saturday showed the name of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a Cleveland, Ohio, police officer in 2014, after holding a toy gun at a playground.
After winning the US Open – for the second year; she first won in 2018 – on September 12, Osaka told reporters that the point of her intentionally chosen face masks was “to make people start talking.”
“Everything that I was doing off the court was sort of on the court at the same time too,” Osaka said on Saturday. “It made me stronger because I felt like I have more desire to win because I want to show more names.”
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- Naomi Osaka wore a Kobe Bryant jersey after her US Open semifinal win, just weeks after she boycotted a match in his honour
- Naomi Osaka was 2 matches away from winning a tournament but dropped out at the last minute in protest of police violence
- Naomi Osaka wore a Breonna Taylor mask heading into her first-round US Open victory