Tennis player Naomi Osaka drew attention during the US Open when she wore facemasks bearing the names of victims of police brutality. She revealed that she had seven different masks, including ones with Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery, prompting responses from the victims' parents. Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and Marcus Arbery both recorded videos thanking Osaka.
"I just want to say 'thank you' to Naomi Osaka for representing Trayvon Martin on your customized mask," Fulton said in the video. "And also for Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Continue to do well, continue to kick butt at the US Open. Thank you." Marcus said that he and his family really appreciate Osaka's support.
"I feel like I'm a vessel at this point in order to spread awareness."
Trayvon Martin's mother and Ahmaud Arbery's father thanked Naomi Osaka for representing their sons on the masks she's been wearing throughout the US Open. pic.twitter.com/0IHBU7pvx4— espnW (@espnW) September 9, 2020
ESPN showed the tennis player the two videos on Tuesday following her victory over Shelby Rogers. The reporter asked Osaka what the video meant to her, and she responded by praising their strength. "I don't know what I would be able to do if I was in their position, but I feel like I'm a vessel at this point to spread awareness," Osaka said. She later revealed that she was trying not to cry after initially watching the videos and that putting the names on her facemasks is just a speck of what she could be doing.
"I actually have seven [masks], and it's quite sad that seven masks isn't enough for the amount of names, so hopefully I'll get to the finals and you can see all of them," Osaka explained to reporters after her first win. She also said that "none of these deaths had to happen. I just want everyone to know the names."
While Osaka wanted to highlight the names of several victims, she specifically chose Martin based on how his death affected her. She posted a photo on Instagram of her wearing the mask and explained that the fatal shooting changed the way she dressed for years. It also changed her view of the world.
As she explained on social media, Osaka stopped wearing hooded sweatshirts for years to look "less suspicious." She knew that Martin's death was not the first, but she said it was the one that opened her eyes. "I remember watching the events unfold on tv and wondering what was taking so long, why was justice not being served. To see the same things happening over and over still is sad. Things have to change," Osaka wrote.