Shout-Out to Naomi Osaka:
Serves a Potent Message to the World... and then wins the U.S. Open



Naomi Osaka is one of the top women tennis players in the world. She has a 120-mph serve, an intimidating forehand, and formidable baseline play. At the U.S. Open this year, Osaka delivered a message—to the world. In each of her seven matches, the 22-year-old Osaka wore the name of a Black person killed by the police or racist vigilantes: Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile, and Tamir Rice.*

Then on Saturday, September 12, Osaka won the final of the U.S. Open, becoming a three-time Grand Slam champion. Osaka, born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, grew up in the U.S., relinquished her U.S. citizenship, and represents Japan in tournaments. In an interview right after her tournament win, a reporter asked Osaka, “You said from the beginning, you had seven matches, seven masks, seven names. What was the message you wanted to send, Naomi?” She turned the question around, saying, “What was the message that you got was more the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”

After a pig killed George Floyd in May, Osaka posted news and footage of the murder, saying, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal” and tweeted, “Just because it doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.” In August, after a Kenosha pig shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back, paralyzing him from the waist down, Osaka boycotted a match in another tournament. She arrived at the match wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and tweeted: “Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of police is honestly making me sick to my stomach. I’m extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again. When will it ever be enough?” (After this, the Women’s Tennis Association agreed to postpone the match.)

In another tweet, Osaka said: “I remember Trayvon’s death clearly. I remember being a kid and just feeling scared.... 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.”

* Breonna Taylor, a Black woman murdered by police in March 2020 while sleeping in her home; Elijah McClain died after being placed in a chokehold by police in August 2019; Ahmaud Arbery, killed while jogging in February 2020; 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, fatally shot in 2012 by a wanna-be-cop; George Floyd, murdered by a cop who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, May 2020; Philando Castile, fatally shot by police during a traffic stop in 2016; and 12-year-old Tamir Rice shot and killed by a cop in 2014. [back]

Naomi Osaka



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