Blending politics and sports
Two years ago Naomi Osaka was all tears when she won the 2018 US Open but raised the issue of social justice
Two years ago Naomi Osaka was all tears when she won the 2018 US Open but raised the issue of social justice. This time too as part of her victory speech, Osaka made sure to continue bringing awareness to social justice to the very end. Osaka came to the tournament prepared with seven face masks to wear — one for each round of the U.S. Open, granted she made it to the finals — all emblazoned with the name of a Black victim of violence.
In her final match on September 12, she unveiled the seventh and last mask name: Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old black boy killed by police in Cleveland in 2014 while playing with his toy gun. Barely two weeks ago, Osaka announced she would not be playing her semifinal match in a tune-up event, preferring not to distract from Black Lives Matter protests and the outrage over Jacob Blake's shooting. The entire tennis ecosystem scrambled in response to her, and all matches were called off that day.
Such is Osaka's moral authority and currency these days. She is the new Serena Williams both on and off the court. Of course such celebrities should be politically right too in their expressions nowadays. This is a highly polarised world. Joining the ranks that rebel against authority is increasingly becoming the norm of the day. Some prefer to call it anarchy and some others Leftism or Socialism.
Yet, individual voices are coming together, thanks due to the social media, to rally against the governments. After taking the court with a Tamir Rice mask, Osaka lost the first set. She regrouped to win the last two sets. This will not go down as a classic, but she completed the job, as champions do. And then she talked about the issue that matters to her – social justice. Personal triumph over it was time for collective conscience...She wore seven masks with different names for each of her matches to honor Black victims of violence. She said it motivated her.
Osaka, 22, represents Japan but is based in the United States. In the five-month tour hiatus because of the pandemic, Osaka, the biracial daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother, became deeply involved in the social justice movement, attending a rally in Minneapolis and speaking out on social networks.
The families of the victims Osaka chose to represent with her face masks have shared their support for her endeavours through recorded messages with ESPN — Trayvon Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton thanked Osaka and told her to "continue to do well, continue to kick butt at the U.S. Open," while Ahmaud Arbery Sr., Ahmaud Arbery's father, said: "Naomi, I just want to tell you thank you for the support for my family and God bless you for what you're doing."
"It means a lot," Osaka said in response to the videos. It was a remarkable show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Less remarked upon was the fact that she anticipated sticking around for seven matches, a supreme show of self-belief.