Naomi Osaka: 7 Masks with 7 Names

Written by: Justin

Edited by: Lucas

Visual by: Sarah Pr.

The US Open is one of the four Grand Slam tournaments in tennis and is considered the most prestigious tennis tournament in America. This year’s US Open has come to a conclusion, with the number 3 ranked player Naomi Osaka winning the women’s singles event. 

With a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Victoria Azarenka, Osaka got her second US Open title and her third Grand Slam title. After losing the first set of the finals and dropping the first two games in the second set, she rallied and won 12 of the next 16 games. Thus, she became the first player in 26 years to win the women’s singles final after losing the first set. 

What made the headlines wasn’t her remarkable comeback, however. It was her 7 masks in 7 wins. Throughout her two weeks in Flushing Meadows, New York, Osaka walked out for her matches wearing seven different masks with the names of black victims of police brutality and racial injustice. These names include Breonna Taylor, Elijah Mcclain, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice.

Osaka has been an outspoken advocate for the Black Lives Matter (“BLM”) movement. Prior to the US Open, she boycotted her semi-final match at the Western & Southern Open. Her reasoning was she didn’t want tennis to distract the world from this ongoing issue of racial injustice and continue to put black lives at risk. She explained this in a social media post stating, “As a black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis.”

The masks she wore during the US Open were intended to recognize the lives of the victims and send the message that black people don’t feel safe in their own country. Osaka wanted the media to keep talking about and addressing the issue of racial injustice so that people can take action and create change. After her victory, ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi asked about her decision to wear the masks and what message she was trying to send, to which she responded, “What was the message that you got was more the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking.” 

Despite the health crisis brought about by the pandemic, many of the most recognizable athletes have decided to resume playing their respective sports with the intention of using their platforms to share their views and send their message. Naomi Osaka’s seven masks are a great example of how athletes can use their popularity to make impactful change. She joins the likes of Lebron James, Colin Kaepernick, Lewis Hamilton in putting a spotlight on the fight for racial equality and police reform.