Naomi Osaka wins 2020 U.S. Open Title while rallying for social justice and paying tribute to Kobe Bryant. Osaka rallied over Victoria Azarenka to win her 2nd U.S. Open. Although things started off rocky for Osaka, she was able to regain control of the match for the ultimate victory.
Only 22, Osaka is already a great player leaving her mark on and off the court. Previously scheduled to play in the semifinal match at the 2020 Western & Southern Open last month, Osaka announced she would skip the semifinals as an act of protest against the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Wisconsin.
In a statement released Osaka stated “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.” To show their support the tournament agreed to pause play for one day as a symbol of standing against racial inequality, and Osaka played her semifinal the next day..
Osaka continued to show her commitment and support during her run to the U.S. Open finals to draw attention to police brutality and racial injustice. She came prepared with seven face masks to wear, one for each round of the U.S. Open, granted she made it to the finals. Each mask dawned the name of a Black victim of violence. She wore masks with the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice.
Considering herself a vessel to spread awareness, when asked by Tom Rinaldi during the post-match interview “What was the message you wanted to send?” Osaka replied back with “Well, what was the message that you got? … I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”
On top of becoming a three-time Grand Slam Champion on Saturday evening, Osaka not only deserves praise for her on-court play, but also major respect for what she did leading up to each match. As athletes continue to find their voice and use their platform to speak out against police brutality, systematic racism and social inequality they will no longer be silenced by the notion of ‘stick to sports’. Seven matches, seven masks and seven names, Osaka uses her talents to win the U.S. Open and voice to take a stand for change.