Naomi Osaka is continuing her silent protest to make sure that the names of Black community members killed by law enforcement and state sanctioned violence are remembered.
Each day at the US Open, the champion tennis player who is half Black and Japanese, has worn a simple black mask with the names of victims shown in white letters. Osaka began the first day of matches by wearing a mask for Breonna Taylor, followed with tributes for Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and George Floyd.
On Tuesday during a press conference after her winning match, she was shown a video from Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton and Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud Arbery’s father, who thanked her for keeping their children’s names in the forefront of the fight for equality and liberation.
“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 U.S. Open.”
“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 God bless you,” Arbery said.
“It means a lot. I feel like, I don’t know, they’re so strong. I’m not sure what I would be able to do if I was in their position, but, I don’t know. I feel like I’m a vessel at this point in order to spread awareness. It’s not going to dull the pain, but hopefully I can help with anything that they need,” she said when asked her thoughts in response.
“Actually I have a lot to say about this. 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,” she wrote.
Osaka shared her thoughts about receiving thanks from the families in a separate tweet.
“I often wonder if what I’m doing is resonating and reaching as many people as I hope. That being said, I tried to hold it in on set but after watching these back I cried so much. The strength and the character both of these parents have is beyond me. Love you both, thank you,” she wrote.
I often wonder if what I’m doing is resonating and reaching as many people as I hope. That being said, I tried to hold it in on set but after watching these back I cried so much. The strength and the character both of these parents have is beyond me. Love you both, thank you
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) September 9, 2020
“I was just trying really hard not to cry. For me, it’s a bit surreal. It’s extremely touching that they would feel touched by what I’m doing. For me, I feel like what I’m doing is nothing. It’s a speak of what I could be doing,” she said later.
Osaka was also one of the athletes outside the NBA who protested over the shooting death of Jacob Blake.
A two-time Grand Slam champion, Osaka played powerful, clean tennis to outlast Rogers. But after the win, her message seemed more important than the match result.
On Thursday Osaka represents Japan as she advances to the semi finals of the US Open where she will go against Jennifer Brady of the U.S.