Naomi Osaka wears Elijah McClain mask to US Open, advances to 3rd round

Jason Owens
·3-min read

After wearing a mask with Breonna Taylor’s name to her first-round win over Misaki Doi, Naomi Osaka vowed that she planned to honor more victims of police violence during her US Open run.

She followed through on Wednesday, showing up to Arthur Ashe Stadium with a mask bearing the name of Elijah McClain before her second-round win over Camila Giorgi.

Osaka has 7 masks with 7 names

The 2018 US Open champion said on Monday that she arrived to New York with masks honoring seven different people — one for each match that would carry her to the tournament final if she advances that far.

“For me, [it’s about] just spreading awareness,” Osaka said Monday after wearing the Taylor mask. “I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they’ll become in it.”

After honoring Taylor — the 26-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed in Louisville when police barged into her home on a no-knock warrant on March 13 — Osaka turned her attention to McClain.

Naomi Osaka of Japan walks in wearing a mask with the name Elijah McClain.
Naomi Osaka kept up with her social justice messaging at the US Open on Wednesday. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

What happened to McClain

McClain was a 23-year-old Black man who died in 2019 after police in Aurora, Colorado placed him in a chokehold called a carotid hold intended to restrict blood flow to the brain. The technique has since been banned.

Paramedics arrived on the scene and injected him with ketamine, a common veterinary tranquilizer that is sometimes used as a sedative on humans. McClain suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and died days later.

He did not commit a crime, as police responded to a 911 call claiming that someone “looked sketchy.” Body camera footage shows that McClain stopped walking after multiple commands from the police and asked them to “leave me alone.” The officers responded by restraining him and taking him to the ground.

A police report claims that McClain reached for one of their guns. Footage does not support that claim.

Like in Taylor’s case, no arrests have been made in McClain’s death. Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema were the responding officers in the incident. They were initially placed on leave, but have since returned to duty.

Osaka advances

Osaka defeated Giorgi, 6-1, 6-2 to advance to third-round play. That presumably means she will honor another victim of police violence at her next match against Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk.

The 22-year-old has increasingly used her voice for social justice stances. She joined NBA and WNBA players during their wildcat strikes last week by refusing to take the court for a semifinal match at the Western & Southern Open amid protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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