All through the US Open, Naomi Osaka used her platform to highlight racism and police brutality in the US by wearing seven masks bearing names of a few Black people who were killed violently by either police or anyone else allegedly being racist. Ever since the killing of George Floyd on May 25, Osaka has been speaking on the issue of racism and according to her coach, finding her voice like that has helped her game too.
Before the US Open, Osaka announced that she would not play the semi-finals of Western & Southern Open in order to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Wisconsin. However, with the tournament being shut for a day to highlight the issue, Osaka decided to return. Then, at an even bigger stage in New York, Osaka chose to continue making her voice heard.
The seven masks Osaka wore for her US Open matches bore the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice. Rice being the last mask at the final.
At the US Open presentation ceremony, after she beat Victoria Azarenka to win her second trophy in New York and third Grand Slam title, she was asked about what message she wanted to deliver by wearing those masks to the matches and Osaka replied sharply saying it was more important to know what message people got.
“‘What was the message that you got?’ That’s more the question. The point is to make people start talking," she said.
“For me, I’ve been inside of the bubble so I’m not really sure what’s really going on in the outside world. All I can tell is what’s going on on social media and for me I feel like the more retweets it gets - that’s so lame but … - the more people talk about it," she added.
Osaka, in June, had faced criticism on social media for being so vocal against racism with some suggesting that athletes should stick to sports. Osaka, however, chose not to back down, wanting to deliver her message and create awareness regarding the issue.
“I feel like I’m a vessel at this point in order to spread awareness and it’s not going to dull the pain, but hopefully I can help with anything that they need," she had said.