Tennis

Osaka's U.S. Open goal is to sport 7 masks honouring 7 victims of racial violence

Before and after her first-round victory at the U.S. Open, Naomi Osaka wore a mask bearing the name of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was fatally shot by police.

22-year-old continues to try to raise awareness of social injustice

Naomi Osaka, of Japan, wears a mask in honor of Breonna Taylor before her match against Misaki Doi, of Japan, during the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday. (Associated Press)

Before and after her first-round victory at the U.S. Open, Naomi Osaka wore a mask bearing the name of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was fatally shot by police.

It's just one of seven face coverings, each in honour of a different person, that Osaka brought to Flushing Meadows — the same number of wins it takes to claim a Grand Slam trophy. The world's highest-earning female athlete hopes she can get the chance to raise awareness about racial injustice by using each mask during her stay in New York.

"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, the champion at the 2018 U.S. Open and 2019 Australian Open.

"I'm aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn't know Breonna Taylor's story. Maybe they'll, like, Google it or something," Osaka said. "For me, [it's about] just spreading awareness. I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they'll become in it."

On the court, she overcame some uneven play late Monday night to beat 81st-ranked Misaki Doi 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 in an all-Japanese matchup in an empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It was during the Western & Southern Open last week that Osaka took a public stand by saying she would refuse to play her semifinal, joining athletes in various other sports who walked out to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a police officer in Wisconsin.

Osaka's move prompted tournament organizers to halt action entirely for a day. When play resumed, Osaka agreed to compete, after all, because the day off for the Western & Southern Open brought additional attention to the issue.

WATCH | The Breakdown: Glenroy Gilbert discusses racial protests, Athletics Canada:

How Canada's track coach navigates today's social unrest | The Breakdown

Sports

3 months agoVideo
5:12
Olympic gold medallist and Athletics Canada head coach Glenroy Gilbert gives an update on how the Canadian track and field team has been moving forward through the black lives matter movement and also shares his opinion on the boycotts and protests. 5:12

Osaka walked out on court for her match Monday night with a black mask and white lettering with the name of Taylor, a 26-year-old who was fatally shot when police officers burst into her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation in March.

Osaka put the mask back on for her post-match interview.

"A lot of people ask me if I feel more stressed out ever since I started speaking out more. To be honest, not really," Osaka said. "At this point, like, if you don't like me, it is what it is. You know what I mean?"

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now