Naomi Osaka is seeking to capture another Grand Slam tournament title as part of the pool of players at this year’s US Open, but she’s also using her massive platform in other ways. The Japanese-Haitian tennis star has donned masks adorned with the names of Black lives at the hands of law enforcement, prompting a show of thanks from parents of the slain victims.
With a Tuesday night (Sept. 8) win over American player Shelby Rogers, Osaka found herself on the receiving end of calls from the mother of Trayvon Martin and the father of Ahmaud Arbery due to her activism by way of placing the names of the aforementioned Taylor and Arbery, along with five other names should she advance all the way into the championship round.
As reported by ESPN, video messages from Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, and Marcus Arbery Sr., the father of Ahmaud Arbery, both praised Osaka for elevating the names of Black lives lost to police and at the hands of vigilante justice.
“I just want to say thank you to Naomi Osaka for representing Trayvon Martin on your customized mask,” Fulton said. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Continue to do well, continue to kick butt at the US Open.”
Mr. Arbery added “Thank you for the support on my family and God bless you for what you’re doing and you’re supporting our family with my son. And my family really, really appreciates that and God bless you.”
Osaka was visibly moved by the messages from Fulton and Arbery but maintained her composure long enough to answer clearly as she wanted.
“I don’t know. I feel like I’m a vessel, at this point, and in order to spread awareness and, hopefully, it’s not going to dull the pain, but hopefully I can, you know, help with anything that they need,” Osaka said.
Check out the video of the moment below.