(CNN) – Tennis star Naomi Osaka took time after a win on Wednesday to call attention to the death of Elijah McClain while wearing a mask with his name on it.
“I still don’t think his name is very put out there compared to George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. For me, today was very special in the way that I wanted to represent him very well,” Osaka said.
McClain was walking home from a convenience store last year in Aurora when he was confronted by three police officers. A struggle ensued and McClain was placed in a carotid hold, the Adams County District Attorney said, after a police report said he resisted arrest. Paramedics administered ketamine, and three days later he was declared brain dead.
“For me, I think when I heard about (McClain’s) story it was very hurtful,” Osaka said.
McClain could be heard on body camera footage telling officers he was an introvert and asking them to “please respect the boundaries I am speaking.”
“No one can really paint the narrative that he was a bad guy because they had so many stories and so many warmhearted things to say about him,” she said.
Osaka asked international viewers to Google McClain’s name and learn about what happened in Aurora and what she says continues to happen all over the world.
“Racism isn’t just an American thing,” she said.
In her first round match on Monday, Osaka wore a mask with Breonna Taylor’s name. Following the win, Osaka said she has seven different masks, telling ESPN that day, “It’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names, so hopefully I’ll get to the finals and you can see all of them.”
Osaka’s 6-1, 6-2 win on Wednesday against Camila Giorgi was followed by both her powerful moment of advocacy and a tender moment with her mother.
After the match, she was surprised by a video call with her mom on a giant screen on the court. The two exchanged a few words in Japanese, interrupted by hiccups.
Osaka’s mother held up a sign of emojis as a message to her daughter. Though she couldn’t see them at the time, Osaka later translated the images.
“The first line is, ‘Good job,’ and then the second one is, ‘Don’t do Instagram and Twitter and instead go to sleep.’ And then the third one is, ‘Drink green juice and get some rest,’ and then the fourth one is, ‘I love you,'” she said.
By Madeline Holcombe and Jill Martin, CNN
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