Naomi Osaka wore a mask emblazoned with Breonna Taylor’s name prior to her first match at the U.S. Open on Monday, and reportedly plans to wear other face coverings with the names of victims of racial violence throughout the tournament.
Osaka, who plays for Japan and was the 2018 U.S. Open champion, won a first round victory against opponent Misaki Doi on Monday evening. In interviews with reporters at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York, Osaka said she brought seven masks to the tournament.
“It’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names, so hopefully I’ll get to the finals so you can see all of them,” Osaka said.
The 22-year-old, who is of Haitian and Japanese descent but has lived in the United States since childhood, told reporters after the match that she was hoping to spread awareness of racial injustice worldwide.
“I’m aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn’t know Breonna Taylor’s story,” Osaka said. “So maybe they’ll Google it. ... For me, [I’m] just spreading awareness. ... I started off with Breonna Taylor’s name first because for me she was the most important and [Black Lives Matter] is still actively going on; there are still marches even though people don’t really talk about it.”
Osaka has been a vocal proponent of the Black Lives Matter movement, and withdrew from her semifinals match in the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament last week after walkouts rocked the sports world following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The tournament later paused for a day and Osaka resumed play, though she pulled out before the finals, citing a hamstring injury.
At the time, Osaka wrote on social media that “watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.”
Watch Osaka’s entire post-match interview below.
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