Naomi Osaka: Trolls who said ‘keep politics out of sports’ inspired me to win

Tennis champion Osaka says that the fuel she needed to win her second U.S. Open championship was provided by social media haters

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Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka isn’t upset with the people who’ve criticized her for making political statements during the U.S. Open tennis tournament. In fact, she believes they inspired her to win.

Over the weekend the Haitian-Japanese athlete won the Open while touching the hearts of millions by wearing face masks with the names of Black police brutality and racial profiling victims including Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Philando Castile, Elijah McClain, and Trayvon Martin written across the front.

As is usually the case, there were those who believe politics and social justice issues have no place in sports. However, on Tuesday the 22-year-old tweeted that not only was she doubling down on her commitment to using her platform to raise awareness but also crediting her naysayers for keeping her going.

“All the people that were telling me to “keep politics out of sports”, (which it wasn’t political at all), really inspired me to win,” she explained. “You better believe I’m gonna try to be on your tv for as long as possible.”

“I remember Trayvon’s death clearly,” the tennis star previously wrote on Twitter. “I remember being a kid and just feeling scared. I know his death wasn’t the first but for me, it was the one that opened my eyes to what was going on. To see the same things happening over and over still is sad.” 

2020 US Open - Day 14
Naomi Osaka of Japan poses with the US Open trophy the morning after winning the Women’s Singles Final on Day Fourteen of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 13, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

In addition to being fueled by her haters, Osaka said she also channeled the energy of the ancestors and honored the legacy of the late NBA icon Kobe Bryant by wearing his jersey every day after playing her games. 

In an Instagram post where she held her trophy aloft celebrating her second U.S. Open victory, Osaka wrote in the caption that she “wore this jersey every day after my matches.” 

“I truly think it gave me strength,” she continued, “Always.”

Her words were followed by a yellow heart and a purple heart. 

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