Naomi Osaka: an athlete, a friend, and a light in the darkness

Naomi Osaka, a half-Haitian, half-Japanese tennis player, is a rising force in the world of sports today. With her second win of the 2020 US Open, her name has been plastered across recent international news. While fame has showered her with attention for her athletic achievements, we see her using this spotlight primarily for other reasons: to be a source of hope for many in an era of social unrest.

“You just gotta keep going and fighting for everything, and one day, you’ll get to where you want,” said Osaka in a press conference shortly after her grand victory. 

She is an inspiration to girls of all ages, especially those who have a passion for tennis. At 22, she demonstrates that dreams do come true, even at such a young age, if you work hard enough. 

Jenna Jordan, a sophomore psychology major at NSU, has played tennis since she was 6 years old, and ever since then, she has been in love with the game.

“It’s inspiring to see a young, black female tennis player, like myself, in such a high position. As an athlete, using her platform to be vocal about things that are directly affecting the communities [is inspirational],” said Jordan. 

Osaka played seven matches in the US Open, wearing seven different masks with the names of Black lives that have been lost and heavily discussed in the recent Black Lives Matter movement, including Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Elijah McClain, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin.

Osaka openly embraces her biracial culture, using her popularity to stand up and speak out about racial injustices. She is proud of her heritage, and in this strong wave of the Black Lives Matter movement, she fully embraces her Black side. Like tennis players Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and James Blake, she will continue to be an inspiration to the world for years to come. Even Michelle Obama, the former first lady, has acknowledged the young winner, congratulating Osaka in a tweet. 

Her bravery has cast a strong light on the world, and the use of her custom masks to raise awareness was an exemplifying statement. Many athletes have not always used their platforms to bring to light these types of problems, but she is one of the select few that are beginning to change that. The message she conveys to the world is that speaking up about social issues without the fear of judgment or lack of support should be normalized — even for athletes, which is very honorable.

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