The parents of Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery on Tuesday shared video messages thanking tennis star Naomi Osaka for wearing face masks with their children's names emblazoned across them while playing in the U.S. Open.
The 22-year-old Osaka has worn face masks with the names of Black people whose deaths have sparked protests against racial injustice before each match during this year's tournament in New York.
After a two-set victory on Tuesday night, ESPN showed a video to Osaka including comments from Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery Sr.
“I just want to say thank you to Naomi Osaka for representing Trayvon Martin on your customized mask," Fulton said. "We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Continue to do well, continue to kick butt at the U.S. Open.”
"I feel like I'm a vessel at this point in order to spread awareness."— espnW (@espnW) September 9, 2020
Trayvon Martin's mother and Ahmaud Arbery's father thanked Naomi Osaka for representing their sons on the masks she's been wearing throughout the US Open. pic.twitter.com/0IHBU7pvx4
Arbery added: "Naomi, I just want to tell you thank you for the support of my family. God bless you for what you’re doing and you’re supporting our family with my son. My family really, really appreciates that."
Martin, 17, was fatally shot in 2012 by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida. Arbery, 25, was shot and killed in Georgia in February while jogging in his neighborhood.
Their deaths, as well as the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor this year, have sparked demonstrations and widespread calls for reforms to combat police brutality and racial injustice.
Following a summer in which Black Lives Matter protests swept across the nation, Osaka said she felt like the face coverings offered her a chance to spread awareness.
"I'm aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn't know Breonna Taylor's story," Osaka told reporters after wearing a mask with Taylor's name on it ahead of a match on Sept. 1.
Asked about the video message on Tuesday, she said she feels like "a vessel at this point in order to spread awareness."
"It’s not going to dull the pain, but hopefully I can help with anything they need," she said.
Osaka has worn face coverings with the names of Taylor, Floyd, Martin, Arbery and Elijah McClain during the U.S. Open. She plans to wear masks bearing other names if she continues to advance in the final rounds of the tournament.