Naomi Osaka became a three-time Grand Slam champion this weekend after defeating Victoria Azarenka at the 2020 U.S. Open. Immediately following her big moment, the 22-year-old Tennis star made a powerful statement about Black Lives Matter.
In each of her seven matches, Osaka wore masks emblazoned with the names of Black victims of police brutality and racial injustice, including Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile, and Tamir Rice.
“I actually have seven [masks], and it’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names, so hopefully I’ll get to the finals and you can see all of them,” she said after her first match win, according to USA Today. She then went on to win her second U.S. Open title representing Japan.
But it wasn’t just Osaka’s masks that made an impact, it was her response to ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi’s post-tournament question regarding her decision to use her clothing to bring awareness to racial violence.
During their interview, Rinaldi asked the tennis pro what message she was trying to send by wearing those masks and her response was direct and powerful.
“Well, what was the message that you got?” Osaka replied. “I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”
Osaka’s poignant answer garnered a ton of attention on social media with many praising her for turning the question back on Rinaldi and the rest of the world.
Naomi Osaka, a champion on and off the courts, also paid respect to Kobe Bryant by wearing his jersey after each of her matches, honoring the legendary athlete for giving her the strength to win her latest Grand Slam title.
“I wore this jersey every day after my matches,” she captioned a photo that sees her holding up the trophy while wearing a black No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers jersey. “I truly think it gave me strength. Always.”