Naomi Osaka is a true champion, both on and off the tennis court. At only 22-years-old, she’s just won her second United States Open women’s singles title, making her the first player in 26 years to win the final after losing the first set. But her big win over the weekend isn’t the only reason the young tennis star is making headlines this week. It’s her fashion statements and her advocacy for Black lives that’s got people really talking and watching her every move.
Although Naomi plays for Japan, it’s no secret that she is of mixed ethnicity and is based in the United States. Her mother is Japanese and her father is Haitian and she proudly sports her heritage whenever she gets an opportunity to do so. “I am Black and Asian. It’s not that confusing,” the Hatian-Japanese athlete told fans on Instagram earlier this year, and it’s statements like this that prove she makes sure her Blackness is not erased, especially by the media.
One of the ways Naomi put her Blackness on full display is through the fashion choices made throughout her run in the US Open. In each of her seven matches, she wore a facemask with a different name of a Black victim of police brutality and racial injustice. Among those names included Beonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice, all young victims of racism in this country. “I wanted more people to say more names,” she said as she walked onto the court Saturday wearing the mask with Tamir Rice’s name. And later at an awards ceremony, she told reporters [of the masks] that “the point is to make people start talking,” and to her credit, her point was boldly made, as news outlets around the world, including in her home country of Japan, covered her statement for social justice.
Her fashion statements didn’t stop there. Following each of her matches, Naomi proudly wore a No. 8 Lakers Jersey as tribute to the late Kobe Bryant, a friendship that the athlete attributes her resilience and power to. Following Saturday’s match, she tweeted a photo of herself in the jersey holding her trophy with the caption, ”I wore this jersey every day after my matches. I truly think it gave me strength. Always.”
And when it came time for her US Open trophy photo shoot at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, she continued to make powerful statements about Black Lives Matter by selecting a traditional African style dress and headwrap as her outfit of choice. She told fans on Twitter, “I would like to thank my ancestors because everytime I remember their blood runs through my veins, I am reminded that I cannot lose.”
The best thing about Naomi Osaka is that she’s just getting started and if her recent political statements reveal anything about her character, it’s proof that she’ll be standing on the right side of history for years to come.