Two years after Naomi Osaka’s emotional US Open win to Serena Williams, the 22-year-old once again took home the trophy after defeating 31-year-old Victoria Azarenka in the grand slam finals on Saturday night.
Despite her incredible performance on the court (it looked like it was Azarenka’s game until the second half when Osaka fought her way back), Osaka’s main aim was clear: to show her support of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
For every one of her seven matches, Osaka wore a different face mask with names of seven Black people killed in America by either police or racists: Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile, and finally, Tamir Rice.
During the final match, Osaka’s partner, musician YBN Cordae, sat in the front row with a t-shirt reading ‘Defund the Police’ and behind Osaka was a tribute to the movement: a row of t-shirts with Black faces and the message, ‘Bringing Black faces to the front.’
After Osaka won, reporter Tom Rinaldi asked her about the message she wanted to send with her masks. In response, Osaka said, “Well, what was the message that you got, was more the question.”
“I feel like the point was to make people start talking,” she continued.
Before the U.S. Open began, Osaka joined in solidarity with NBA players striking for racial justice, opting out of the Western & Southern Open semifinal, a move that temporarily shut down the Women’s Tennis Association. “If withdrawing from a tournament would cause the most stir, then that was something I needed to do,” she explained afterward. “I don’t feel like I am being brave, I just feel like I am doing what I should be doing.”
In June, Osaka also reportedly flew to Minneapolis to participate in protests sparked by George Floyd’s death, without alerting her agent or coach.
Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton followed suit on Sunday, wearing a t-shirt dedicated to Breonna Taylor, who was killed in her own home by police in March. To this day, there have been no arrests made.