Naomi Osaka used her platform to draw attention to police brutality and racial injustice during her opening match at the U.S. Open on Monday.
The Japanese tennis champ, 22, entered Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York wearing a plain black face mask with Breonna Taylor's name on it, honoring the 26-year-old EMT who was killed in March in her home by Louisville Metro Police.
Osaka was victorious at the match, defeating Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.
After her victory, she told reporters that she has several more masks that also honor victims of police brutality that she intends to use throughout the tournament.
"I actually have seven, 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.
Taylor was shot and killed on March 13 in her apartment by Louisville Metro Police Department officers who were looking for a suspect that lived in another unit and had already been apprehended.
The three officers involved, Brett Hankinson, Jonathan Mattingly, and Myles Cosgrove, have not been criminally charged.
Following the Aug. 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, Osaka was among many athletes to boycott their respective sports. Blake, 29, was shot in the back by police officers on Aug. 23 in front of three of his children. His family said that he has been paralyzed from the waist down.
Last week, Osaka announced her decision to pull out of her semifinals match at the 2020 Western & Southern Open. Several hours later, the tournament announced it was pausing play for a day.
"Hello, as many of you are aware I was scheduled to play my semifinals match tomorrow," Osaka wrote on Twitter. "However, before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. And 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."
"I don't expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction," she explained. "Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach. I'm exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I'm extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again. When will it ever be enough?"
To conclude her post, Osaka included hashtags for Blake, Taylor, Elijah Mcclain, and George Floyd, all of whom were killed by police.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.
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