Naomi Osaka has never been shy about making a statement in support of a good cause, especially as it relates to Black Lives Matter. In 2020, at the Women’s Single matches of the US Open in New York City, the star athlete was spotted wearing several statement-making masks in prevention of COVID-19 and those who died unjustly due to racial violence and police brutality. “I have seven [masks],” Osaka told Forbes in an on-court interview. “It’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names [of Black people killed by members of law enforcement], so hopefully, I’ll get to the finals and you can see all of them.”
At the BET Awards, we commemorate those who make a stand for justice—especially when they do it creatively. Below, see the “Sportswoman Of The Year” nominee’s masks that supported the BLM movement. Keep scrolling to see the powerful moments from the tennis star.
Naomi honored Minnesota's, Philando Castile, at the US Open semifinal match against Jennifer Brady. Castile was fatally shot by police officer Jeronimo Yanez in front of his girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter during a traffic stop. “For me, [it’s about] just spreading awareness,” Osaka said after the tournament. “I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they’ll become in it.”
In the third round of the semifinals, Osaka showed honor to Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, who was jogging in Georgia when he was shot and killed by three white men who were charged with murder. After Osaka won the match against Shelby Rogers, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., sent her a video message, “I just want to tell you thank you for the support of my family, and God bless you.”
Naomi Osaka also showed her support of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old from Florida who was shot and killed by the infamous George Zimmerman — who was later acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in 2012. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, also shared her appreciation to the tennis champ, “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. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Continue to do well, continue to kick butt at the U.S. Open. Thank you.”
Naomi walked in strong and confident wearing a George Floyd mask as she entered the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Day 9 of the Women’s Singles quarter-finals match. Reigniting the BLM movement, the death of the 46-year-old Minneapolis man during the pandemic, was caused by a white officer, Derek Chauvin, who pinned him to the ground while kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes.
Naomi brought further attention to the death of Elijah McClain, the Colorado man who was walking home from a convenience store when he was confronted by three police officers who held him in a carotid hold. He was administered ketamine by the paramedics, and three days later he was pronounced brain dead. "I still don't think his name is very put out there compared to George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. For me, today was very special in the way that I wanted to represent him very well," Osaka told CNN.
All eyes were on Naomi when she entered the arena wearing a Breonna Taylor face mask in recognition of the young EMT who was killed by three Louisville Metro Police Department plainclothes officers that entered her apartment under a “no-knock” warrant, with no arrests or charges yet to be brought against the perpetrators. “I’m aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn’t know Breonna Taylor’s story,” Osaka told reporters yesterday, after the match via video conference.
On the last day of the semifinals, Japan’s tennis ace wore a mask that adorned the name Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was killed by Cleveland, OH by police in 2014. "The point is to make people start talking," Osaka said at the awards ceremony. She's spoken volumes without uttering a word.
Watch the BET Awards 2021 on June 27 at 8/7C.
(Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images)
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