Who was Tamir Rice? Naomi Osaka wore mask at US Open to seek justice for 12-year-old shot dead by White cop

Osaka previously wore masks to the court in US Open matches bearing the names of Black people who were victims of violence including Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain

                            Who was Tamir Rice? Naomi Osaka wore mask at US Open to seek justice for 12-year-old shot dead by White cop
(Getty Images)

Japan’s tennis ace Naomi Osaka won her second United States Open singles title on September 12 where she faced Victoria Azarenka. However, the player grabbed everyone’s attention by wearing a Black mask which had Tamir Rice's name on it. Rice was a 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed in Cleveland by a White police officer in 2014. Osaka wore masks to the court in US Open matches bearing the names of Black people who were victims of violence. This included Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and now Tamir Rice. "The point is to make people start talking," Osaka said at the awards ceremony about her message. 

Naomi Osaka (Getty Images)

The 22 year-old-player, who represents Japan and is based in the United States, is the biracial daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother. Over the past few years, she became actively involved in the social justice movement. The New York Times has reported that showing her activism, Osaka initially declined to play her semifinal match in the Western & Southern Open the week before the US Open, as a mark of solidarity with athletes in professional basketball, baseball and soccer who were protesting systemic racism and police brutality. Osaka has not only championed as a sportsperson but also as a champion of social causes. Here's is all you need to know about Rice, with whom Osaka stood in solidarity in the US Open finals. 

Naomi Osaka of Japan wears a protective face mask with the name Ahmaud Arbery stenciled on it after winning her Women's Singles third round match against Marta Kostyuk of the Ukraine on Day Five of the 2020 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 4, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York City (Getty Images)

Who was Tamir Rice?

Rice was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 25, 2002, to Samaria Rice and Leonard Warner. He attended sixth grade at Marion-Seltzer Elementary School in Cleveland and was described as a pleasant young man who enjoyed art and played sports, as per Black Past. On November 22, 2014, 12-year-old Rice was shot dead by a White police officer when he was playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation center in Cleveland, Ohio, as per ABC News. The child was with a toy gun which the police mistook for a real one and shot him within seconds of arriving at the spot, GQ reported. 

Activists march on E. 9th St on December 29, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio. Protesters took to the street the day after a grand jury declined to indict Cleveland Police officer Timothy Loehmann for the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice on November 22, 2014 (Getty Images)

Later, the surveillance video of the shooting gained global attention, which led to Rice becoming an icon for the Black Lives Matter movement. After her son’s death, Rice's mother Samaria, in an interview with ABC News, recounted her emotional journey and spoke about her son. "People used to joke and say my son was going to be with me until he was 35 years old. They probably would have been right. He was mommy’s baby. Tamir had just turned 12 years old and was transitioning from playing with Legos to playing video games and becoming a teen."

Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice -  who was shot dead by a police officer -  speak on a panel titled 'The Impact of Police Brutality - The Victims Speak' at the National Action Network (NAN) national convention on April 8, 2015, in New York City (Getty Images)

Mentioning his interests she said, "He went from one activity to the next. He really enjoyed soccer, football, basketball as well. He liked to draw too and was part of the art program. He liked his school, for the most part. I would say he liked science and reading." Rice's death due to a reported incident of police brutality caused a nationwide uproar with huge public outcry against police violence.

Internet lauds Osaka

Osaka's recent gesture was lauded by the internet. NBA analyst LaChina Robinson wrote in her support, "Kind of emotional about Naomi’s win. Black women are trying to heal themselves, their families, their communities, and are still expected to show up and serve as an inspiration all while fighting every day to prove that we deserve better. We salute you." Author Min Jin Lee wrote how she made an anti-racist impact in the world, "American police brutality is a global issue. Why? American politics and culture are global exports. Naomi Osaka's activism and professional excellence have a direct anti-racist impact in the world." 



Some compared her with Serena Williams. "I must say, it was disappointing to see the contrast between Naomi’s masks displaying the names of Black people unjustly killed by police and Serena’s masks displaying... her brand. Even and especially as a Serena stan, this missed opportunity for leadership really troubled me." A fan wrote in her praise, "Naomi Osaka has more bravery than the entire NFL. She called out police brutality and went out and showed the world she’s the best damn tennis player on the planet. An icon in the making." Another concurred on her wearing various masks of solidarity, “She wore a mask for each round of @usopen to remind us that she fought 4 so much more off the court: Justice 4 Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Tamir Rice and many more. Thank you." 




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