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‘I Just Want to Spread Awareness’: Naomi Osaka Wears Face Mask with Breonna Taylor’s Name on It at U.S. Open

Tennis star Naomi Osaka says she’s highly aware that people watch the U.S. Open all over the world, so she wanted to use the tournament to raise awareness about Breonna Taylor.

Osaka faced off against Japan’s Misaki Doi on Monday, Aug. 31, at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York, and while walking on the court Osaka wore a black face mask that had Breonna Taylor’s name on it.

Naomi Osaka wore a face mask with Breonna Taylor’s name on it, Monday, Aug. 31, at the US Open. (Photo: @naomiosaka / Instagram)

Osaka beat Doi 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, and put the mask back on for her post-game interview.

“For me, I just want to spread awareness,” Osaka explained. “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. For me, just spreading awareness, I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they’ll become in it.”

Justice is still being demanded for Taylor, who was shot and killed in her apartment nearly six months ago by three plainclothes police officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department during the execution of a no-knock search warrant.

The officers were investigating two men they believed were selling drugs, and one of those men was Taylor’s ex-boyfriend. Officers thought drugs were being sent to Taylor’s home, but there is no proof to support that claim. No drugs were found in her apartment after the search.

Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker had been in bed when police began battering down the front door and, thinking noise was coming from criminal intruders, Walker shot one of the cops in the leg as the door was breached. The officers returned a barrage of gunfire, and Taylor was killed after being shot five times. Walker was eventually charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but the charge was dropped in May. Walker now claims his shot did not hit anyone and the officer was instead hit by friendly fire from his fellow cops.

Osaka also spoke about her Breonna Taylor mask with ESPN and said she has more that she’ll wear in the future with other people’s names.

“I have seven,” she told the sports network, according to CNN. “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 said that she wore Taylor’s name first “Because she was most important.”

The 22-year-old has been supporting Black Lives Matter and protests for racial justice on social media since they’ve increased in May.

Last Saturday she pulled out of her finals match against Victoria Azarenka in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot multiple times by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin last month. He’s now paralyzed from the waist down.

“Before I am a athlete, I am a Black woman,” wrote Osaka on Instagram, Wednesday, Aug. 26. “And 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.”

Her message received support from other prominent Black tennis players like Sloane Stephens, who retweeted it and wrote, “Say it louder! Proud of you.”

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