Naomi Osaka honored Breonna Taylor during the first round of the U.S. Open, and said she plans to pay tribute to other victims of violence throughout the Grand Slam tournament.
On Monday night, Osaka, 22, entered Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing a black mask bearing the name of Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed by Louisville police in her home in March.
After she beat Japan's Misaki Doi in three sets, Osaka said she has seven masks to wear if she advances through each round of the U.S. Open.
"I'm aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn’t know Breonna Taylor's story," Osaka told reporters after her first-round victory. "Maybe they'll Google it or something. For me, [it's] just spreading awareness. I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they’ll become in it."
"It's quite sad that seven masks isn't enough for the amount of names," she said. "Hopefully I'll get to the finals and you can see all of them."
Last week, Osaka refused to play in the semifinal of the Western & Southern Open in reaction to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. The tournament announced hours later that it would pause play for the day. Osaka later agreed to continue and won Friday, but was forced to pull out of the final against Victoria Azarenka due to a hamstring injury.
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back by Kenosha, Wis., police in front of his children on Aug. 23.
Osaka, the 2018 U.S. Open and 2019 Australian Open champion, explained her decision to initially sit out the semifinal match in a tweet on Aug. 26.
"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," she said. "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. Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach."
Several NBA, WNBA, NHL, MLS and MLB games were also postponed by player protests last week. The Bucks were the first team to react and refused to take the court for Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic.