Naomi Osaka Honors Breonna Taylor in First Round Win at US Open

After boycotting a previous tournament match to show her support for the victims of police violence, Naomi Osaka is taking more steps to raise awareness during the US Open.

The Japanese tennis star — who is currently the highest-paid female athlete in the world — took the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York on Monday with a black face mask emblazoned with the name “Breonna Taylor.”

According to the Associated Press, Osaka told reporters at the match that she brought seven masks — enough for every stage of competition until the finals — each with a different name of a victim of police violence.

“It’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names, so hopefully I’ll get to the finals so you can see all of them,” she said.

[email protected] walked out in a Breonna Taylor mask for her night match at Arthur Ashe stadium.#USOpenpic.twitter.com/Ubxwst54kl

“I’m aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn’t know Breonna Taylor’s story. Maybe they’ll, like, Google it or something,” Osaka added. “For me, (it’s about) just spreading awareness. I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they’ll become in it.”

The No. 4-seeded Osaka beat 81st-ranked Misaki Doi for a first-round victory on Monday, though she is still recovering from a hamstring injury that forced her to withdraw from the final of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday.

The tennis star sat out her semifinal match at last week’s tournament following the police shooting of Wisconsin man Jacob Blake in protest against racial injustice and “the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police.”

“Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman. 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,” Osaka wrote a statement posted to her social media accounts on Wednesday.

“Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach,” continued the athlete, who grew up in the United States, but represents her mother’s home country of Japan in international competition. “I’m exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I’m extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again. When will it ever be enough?”

“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,” she added.

A post shared by 大坂なおみ 🇭🇹🇯🇵🇺🇸 (@naomiosaka) on

However, on Thursday, CNN reported that Osaka planned to return to the event on Friday to take on Elise Mertens in the rescheduled semifinal match.

“I was (and am) ready and prepared to concede the match to my opponent,” she said in a statement. “However, after my announcement and lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA, I have agreed at their request to play on Friday. They offered to postpone all matches until Friday and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement. I want to thank the WTA and the Tournament for their support.”

Osaka joined many major athletes with her decision to sit out from major competitions in protest. Milwaukee Bucks players didn’t take the court for Game 5 of their first-round NBA playoff series against the Orlando Magic, which led to a league-wide boycott and rescheduling of finals games and the announcement of new social justice and voting initiatives by the league. Players from the WNBA, MLB, MLS and more also boycotted competition in solidarity. 

See more on the continued protests in the video below.

NBA Boycott: Lebron James and More Players Speak Out in Aftermath of Jacob Blake Shooting

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