Naomi Osaka Says US Open Masks Were Meant to Start a Dialogue on Social Issues

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorSeptember 12, 2020

Naomi Osaka, of Japan, adjusts her mask after defeating Jennifer Brady, of the United States, during a semifinal match of the US Open tennis championships, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Naomi Osaka wore masks featuring names of Black victims of police brutality and racial injustice throughout the entirety of her U.S. Open run, which culminated with a three-set victory over Victoria Azarenka in the final match on Saturday.

After Osaka's win, ESPN's Tom Rinaldi asked the three-time major winner what message she was trying to convey with the masks, and the 22-year-old provided the following response: 

Osaka, who won seven U.S. Open matches, wore masks honoring Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice.

The two-time U.S. Open champion received thank you messages of support from the families of Martin and Arbery after her quarterfinal win over Shelby Rogers last Tuesday, per ESPN News Services.

"I just want to say thank you to Naomi Osaka for representing Trayvon Martin on your customized mask," Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, said.

"We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Continue to do well, continue to kick butt at the US Open."

Marcus Arbery, the father of Ahmaud Arbery, said the following: "Thank you for the support on my family and God bless you for what you're doing and you're supporting our family with my son. And my family really, really appreciates that and God bless you."

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In addition to Osaka's gestures during the U.S. Open, the 22-year-old also said in late August she would sit out her Western and Southern semifinal match in protest of police brutality days after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The tournament itself then took a pause in solidarity with other protests through professional sports in late August.