Naomi Osaka will play in a U.S. Open semifinal Thursday night, meaning ESPN’s Rennae Stubbs may get a chance to redeem herself after an uncomfortably chirpy interview with the tennis star earlier this week.
Stubbs received internet and media criticism after treating Osaka’s mask tribute to Black victims of police brutality and racial injustice as if it were a gown choice on a red carpet. Viewers accused the announcer of trivializing the matter and turning it into a guessing game.
Osaka has worn masks to the matches bearing the names of Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor and others to raise awareness. After her quarterfinal victory, she wore the name of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked massive protests nationwide.
“I’ve been trying to guess what name is going to be on the mask every single day,” Stubbs said after Osaka beat Shelby Rogers on Tuesday. “I was wrong about today. Are you going to give us a foretelling of who it’s going to be in the next match?”
Osaka answered that she just goes by a feeling, prompting Stubbs to reply: “Well, we can’t wait for that feeling and that next mask.”
Stubbs, a former doubles grand slam champion for Australia, saw the disapproval on the internet and volleyed back her response.
“Of course i meant well, the parents of these victims are so thankful that Naomi is doing this,” she wrote, adding, “I would never disparage them!”
Osaka, the 2018 U.S. Open champion, plays Jennifer Brady in a semifinal Thursday night.
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