- In her first match, Grand Slam–winning tennis player Naomi Osaka wore a face mask printed with the name of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed by police earlier this year.
- In an interview, Osaka said that she has seven masks emblazoned with names of Black people killed by police and that she plans to wear them throughout the event.
As people across the country continue to take to the streets to protest racism and demand justice for Black people killed by police, tennis player Naomi Osaka is making her statement on the court.
During a US Open match last week, the Grand Slam winner wore a face mask printed with the name of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician who was killed by police in March.
In an interview, Osaka said that she has seven different masks with the names of Black people who have been killed by police printed on them, and that she plans to honor their lives throughout the course of the US Open by wearing them on the court.
"It's quite sad that seven masks isn't enough for the amount of names," Osaka said. "Hopefully, I'll get to the finals and you can see all of them."
Naomi Osaka says she has seven masks to wear throughout the @usopen, each with a different name featured, and she hopes she’s able to wear each one.— D'Arcy Maine (@darcymaine_espn) September 1, 2020
“It’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names.” pic.twitter.com/fXQRKVsFtx
Parents of the slain victims have expressed their gratitude to Osaka for uplifting their names. In videos aired by ESPN after Osaka's matches, Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, and Marcus Arbery Sr., the father of Ahmaud Arbery, thanked the tennis player.
"I just want to say thank you to Naomi Osaka for representing Trayvon Martin on your customized mask, and also for Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor," Fulton said. "We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Continue to do well. Continue to kick butt at the US Open. Thank you."
"Naomi, I just want to tell you thank you for the support of my family," Arbery Sr. said. "God bless you for what you're doing and your supporting our family with my son. My family really, really appreciates that. And God bless you."
In response to their video messages, Osaka said both parents were "so strong."
She added, "I feel like I'm a vessel at this point in order to spread awareness. Hopefully, it's not gonna dull the pain. Hopefully, I can help with anything they need."
After her @USOpen match tonight, @ESPN showed @NaomiOsaka video messages from @SybrinaFulton, mother of #TrayvonMartin, and Marcus Arbery, father of #AhmaudArbery — two of the five names she's worn on masks before and after her matches. #SayTheirNames pic.twitter.com/1BOyzQbzg9— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) September 9, 2020
Osaka previously spoke out in support of Black Lives Matter. In late August, she said that she would not be playing one of her matches in order to draw attention to the demands of the movement and the prevailing legacy of racial injustice.
"Before I am a athlete, I am a black woman," she wrote in a statement. "And as a black woman, I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis. I don't expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction."
This article has been updated.
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