The tennis star wore a black face mask emblazoned with Martin’s name on it during the U.S. Open Sunday at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. Martin was an unarmed Black teenager from Florida who was fatally shot in 2012 by a neighborhood watch captain.
After her match against Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit and subsequent win, Osaka posted a statement on Instagram about her choice to honor Martin: “I remember Trayvon’s death clearly. I remember being a kid and just feeling scared, irreverent info but I actually didn’t wear hoodies for years cause I wanted to decrease the odds of ‘looking suspicious’. I know his death wasn’t the first, but for me it was the one that opened my eyes to what was going on. I remember watching the events unfold on tv and wondering what was taking so long, why was justice not being served. To see the same things happening over and over still is sad. Things have to change.”
Since Osaka’s first match at this the Open this year, she’s been wearing face coverings honoring victims of racial violence in America. In an interview last week, she explained that she brought seven different 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.
Last week, she wore one honoring Breonna Taylor, the Black Kentucky EMT who was fatally shot by police in her own home, and another for Elijah McClain, the Black man who was put in a chokehold by three white officers while he was walking home last year and subsequently died after going into a coma.
On Friday, Osaka wore another mask honoring Ahmaud Arbery, the Black man from Georgia who was fatally shot down by two white men while jogging.
Of Taylor, the 22-year-old said: “I’m aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn’t know Breonna Taylor’s story. 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.”
Days later, in talking to reporters about Arbery, Osaka said: “I would like everyone to know that it was completely avoidable — this did not have to happen. None of these deaths had to happen. I just want everyone to know the names.”
Osaka has been a very vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, withdrawing from her semifinals match in the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament last month after a series of other walkouts took the sports world by storm on the heels of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Osaka resumed play a day later.