Just four short years ago Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem, and it sparked an outrage that cost him his professional football career. Recently, more and more athletes have been speaking out against social injustice. Since the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, they are refusing to remain silent. Especially African American athletes, such as Naomi Osaka, an Afro-Japanese American tennis player.
Naomi Osaka won the 2020 U.S. Open while calling attention to seven lives taken unjustly by police officers. Osaka wore seven different face masks with the names of seven victims of police brutality and white supremacy – George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, and Philando Castile. “I feel like the point is to make people start talking,” Naomi Osaka stated in her post match interview.
Historically, tennis has been a sport dominated by White people all over the world. Making such a strong political statement in a predominately White space is important because of the light it sheds on the reality that African Americans in America face. Police brutality can be difficult for other ethnicities to perceive and fathom because it doesn’t happen to them.
There are spectators who believe that sports and politics should not mix, but it is important for athletes to be more than just athletes. It shows the world that they are human, and that what goes on in our country affects them as well. Their platform amplifies their voice and raises social awareness about important issues, such as police brutality. When athletes speak up, their viewers listen, the country listens, the world listens, and the stories of those who suffered from injustice are heard.
Naomi Osaka displayed activism on the court, and used her platform to amplify her voice. Osaka isn’t just a tennis player, but a Black woman speaking up for her community. Osaka isn’t just a champion for tennis, but for the African American community.
The conversations that we need to have as a nation are undoubtedly painful and draining. However, the difficult conversations surrounding police brutality, institutionalized racism, and systemic oppression are needed to better the quality of life for African Americans and other ethnic minorities. The United States, as a nation, must take the necessary steps to reform institutions that negatively and disproportionally affect Black and brown people, and better their quality of life. It is evident that the United States fails to hold police officers and White supremacists accountable for their heinous crimes against innocent people because of their implicit bias and subconscious racism.
Naomi Osaka sparked a conversation, and we all must do our part to fight for change. Whether it be marching in the streets, donating money, or voting for politicians who have the interest of the people at heart.