ESPN analyst and former Australian tennis star Rennae Stubbs has come under criticism after a bizarre post-match interview with Naomi Osaka at the US Open after her victory in the 2020 US Open women’s quarterfinals.
Osaka had just defeated American Shelby Rodgers and was wearing a black face masks with George Floyd’s name on it during Stubbs’ interview.
‘I’ve been trying to guess what name is going to be on the mask every single day. I was wrong about today,’ Stubbs joked during Osaka’s interview.
‘Are you going to give us a foretelling of who’s going to be in the next match?’ she asked.
Australian tennis commentator Rennae Stubbs has been slammed for her questions about Naomi Osaka’s anti-racism stand conveyed through face masks
As she wore a mask with name of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police in May, Stubbs said she ‘couldn’t wait to see what name was next’
Stubbs came in for criticism on social media soon after her interview had been broadcast
‘No, honestly I surprise myself sometimes. I think I’m going to choose this but, no,’ Osaka, 22, replied. ‘For me, it’s just — I don’t know — it’s whatever I feel. I don’t know, it’s like a feeling I have inside.’
‘I’ve been trying to guess what name is going to be on the mask every single day. I was wrong about today,’ Stubbs said.
‘We can’t wait for that next mask,’ she added.
Some felt that Stubbs’ questioning was strange particularly in light of the serious issue of police brutality and that the wearing of the mask wasn’t just a fashion statement.
George Floyd was killed after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was caught on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck during an arrest in May.
His death sparked months-long protests across the country in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Osaka brought seven face masks to the U.S. Open to highlight racial injustice and has previously worn masks featuring Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin – all black men and women who have died at the hands of police.
Two more remain in her kit bag for the semi-final against American Jenny Brady and potentially her second U.S. Open final at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday.
Stubbs came in for criticism even among her profession with New York Times tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg calling it a ‘tonally bizarre on-court interview’.
Tumaini Carayol a sportswriter for The Guardian tweeted: ‘Still cannot believe that Naomi Osaka wearing the names of black people killed by police and others on her masks in order to amplify racial injustices led to this line of questioning.’
Sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted: ‘We can’t wait for the next name of a murdered person you put on your mask? I mean, I don’t think any person in the world had that thought. I guess I was wrong.’
Criticism came thick and fast over what was seen as ill-judged questions on Osaka’s choice of face mask
A number of other Twitter users also chimed in. Vinney Wong wrote: ‘Did Rennae Stubbs really ask Naomi Osaka which mask she’d be wearing for the next match as if those masks are a fashion statement?’
Brandon Carter wrote: ‘I like Rennae Stubbs, I do. But I’m not sure guessing which black murder victim will be repped on Osaka’s mask next is a very fun game.’
‘Of course I meant well, the parents of these victims are so thankful that Naomi is doing this,’ Stubbs wrote as she defended herself on Twitter. ‘We even have them on video talking about it.
‘I think the victims would love to know we are NOT FORGETTING THEIR NAMES! I would never disparage them! If u know me u would know that.’
The US Open later displayed footage of Trayvon Martin’s mother and Ahmaud Arbery’s father who both thanked Osaka for her support.
Naomi Osaka wore a ‘Trayvon Martin’ face mask to the US Open on September 6
The 22-year-old tennis star said: ‘I remember Trayvon’s death clearly. I remember being a kid and just feeling scared’
Trayvon, a 17-year-old high school student, was shot and killed by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman while walking home in Florida in 2012
Osaka wore face mask with the name of slain 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Sunday.
The 17-year-old high school student was shot and killed by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman while walking home in Florida in 2012.
Though Trayvon was unarmed and ran away from Zimmerman, who was following him, Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges on grounds of self defense.
On September 4, Naomi wore a mask featuring the name Ahmaud Arbery for her Women’s Singles third round match against Marta Kostyuk of the Ukraine.
On September 4, Naomi wore a mask featuring the name Ahmaud Arbery for her Women’s Singles third round match against Marta Kostyuk of the Ukraine
Ahmaud, 25, was shot and killed while jogging in Georgia. He had been followed by Travis McMichael, Travis’ father Gregory, and William Bryan, who pursued him in two vehicles.
The McMichaels have been charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, and other crimes and are awaiting trial.
‘I would like everyone to know that it was completely avoidable — this did not have to happen,’ she said of Arbery’s death. ‘None of these deaths had to happen. I just want everyone to know the names.’
On September 2, it was Elijah McClain in the spotlight, as Naomi wore a mask with his name for her match against Camila Giorgi of Italy
On September 2, it was Elijah McClain in the spotlight, as Naomi wore a mask with his name for her match against Camila Giorgi of Italy.
Elijah, 23, died after being stopped on the street and put into a chokehold in the Denver suburb of Aurora on August 24, 2019. He was walking alone along a street after buying iced tea from a convenience store when he was stopped by three white officers.
Elijah McClain, 23, died after being stopped on the street and put into a chokehold in the Denver suburb of Aurora on August 24, 2019
The officers said they were responding to a call about a suspicious person wearing a ski mask and waving his arms.
The 911 caller had told the dispatcher that the man, identified as McClain, ‘might be a good person or a bad person’ and noted that he didn’t have any weapons on him.
When he was approached by the officers, McClain insisted he had done nothing wrong and kept walking. Bodycam footage shows McClain being tackled to the ground and put in a chokehold by the officers.
Paramedics later injected him with 500mg of the sedative ketamine to calm him down. During the confrontation, McClain said he could not breathe before vomiting repeatedly, fainting and then going into cardiac arrest.
He was later declared brain dead and taken off life support several days later.
Naomi’s first mask in the series, which she wore for her match against Misaki Doi of Japan on August 31, paid homage to Breonna Taylor.
Breonna was shot and killed by police officers who entered her Louisville home on a no-knock warrant in the middle of the night while she and her boyfriend were sleeping.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened fire, believing robbers had broken in, before the cops responded by firing more than 20 rounds of their own.
Naomi said: ‘I’m aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn’t know Breonna Taylor’s story.
‘Maybe they’ll, like, Google it or something. For me, [it’s about] just spreading awareness. I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they’ll become in it.’
Naomi’s first mask in the series, which she wore for her match against Misaki Doi of Japan on August 31, paid homage to Breonna Taylor
Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot eight times while sleeping in her bed with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker when three plain clothes officers performed a no-knock arrest warrant at her Louisville apartment on March 13