Naomi Osaka had a clear message throughout her championship U.S. Open run in New York: Black Lives Matter.

Before her first match and all the way through until her victory over Victoria Azarenka in the Final, Osaka came to the court in a customized mask that featured the name of a Black person who had died at the hands of police violence. She wore masks with the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice.

The gesture was one of protest and of solidarity, something she faced a lot of heat for on social media.  On Tuesday, Osaka addressed those naysayers with her particular brand of steely verve.

“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. You better believe I’m gonna try to be on your tv for as long as possible,” she tweeted.

Often times, an athlete’s activism gets framed as a distraction from their game.  Many say that the added emotional pressure of caring about and fighting for something greater than themselves splits their focus and weakens their performance on the court or on the field. Yet, Osaka’s Twitter message seems to be the exact opposite. Instead of being beaten down by the haters or being distracted by her activism, she used it all to spur her on to victory.

Osaka, whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese, has been especially active in fighting anti-Black racism, not only on social media but during her post-game interviews as well. After victory over Azarenka, Osaka was asked what message she was trying to send with her masks. Without hesitating, Osaka forced the question back onto the viewing public.

“What was the message that you got?,” she said. “Isn’t that more the question? I think the point is to get people to start talking.”

Osaka hasn’t backed down an inch from her activism, and instead of it splitting her focus, it’s only cemented further what kind of extraordinary player and person she is.

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