As athletes across America raise awareness about racial injustice and police brutality, Naomi Osaka continues to make striking statements with her on-court looks.
On Monday night, during the first evening of the US Open, the Nike-backed tennis champ walked out for her match in a black mask that had Breonna Taylor’s name written across the front of it.
Osaka, who won the opener, said in a post-match interview that she has six more masks to wear, enough to take her through the entire tournament. Each will honor a different person.
“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,” said Osaka in an interview after the match.
Last week, Osaka withdrew from the Western & Southern Open semifinal to join other athletes in protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Wisconsin.
“Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman. 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,” Osaka wrote on Instagram after she made the decision.
Teams from the NBA, WNBA and Major League Baseball teams also sat out games last week as part of protest efforts.
Osaka has been one of the most vocal tennis players on court during an unusual season. Last week, she stepped out in a Black Lives Matter t-shirt.
While the two-week US Open is being held in New York without fans, Osaka is sending important messages that are resonating with audiences watching at home — and following her on Instagram, where she has 1.2 million fans.