Naomi Osaka secured her second career US Open title earlier in September when she defeated Victora Azarenka in three sets. Before and after every victory on her way to winning the tournament, Osaka wore a mask that honored a different victim of racial inequality or police brutality. She showed off seven in masks altogether.
As Osaka explained on Twitter on Tuesday, not everyone appreciated the statements she made with the facemasks. However, all of those critics just motivated her to win the US Open even more.
“All the people that were telling me to ‘keep politics out of sports’, (which it wasn’t political at all), really inspired me to win,” Osaka tweeted. “You better believe I’m gonna try to be on your tv for as long as possible.”
Osaka’s masks featured the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Elijah McClain, and Ahmaud Arbery. She had packed all seven of those masks and, because she didn’t lose a single match in New York, had the opportunity to wear all of them.
In her tweet, Osaka noted that she believes none of this is a political issue. In June following the death of Floyd, the tennis star had a similar statement when referring to his death as a “human rights issue” rather than a political one.
“I hate when random people say athletes shouldn’t get involved with politics and just entertain,” Osaka tweeted in June. “Firstly, this is a human rights issue. Secondly, what gives you more right to speak than me? By that logic if you work at IKEA you are only allowed to talk about the “GRÖNLID.”