Earlier this week, Osaka made headlines last week when she announced she wouldn’t be meeting with reporters. She cited mental health as the primary reason.
“I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” Osaka wrote on Twitter. “We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.”
Osaka’s media boycott has been met with heavy backlash. The French Open committee threatened harsher punishment, on top of a $15,000 fine, if Osaka continued her media silence. Rather than face such a potential punishment, Osaka is withdrawing from the French Open.
“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.”
Take a look at Osaka’s full statement below.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
Tennis fans are, simply put, stunned. Naomi Osaka is must-watch television, and it’s certainly disappointing she won’t be competing at the French Open.
But there’s widespread sympathy for the 23-year-old who has dealt with “long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018.”
As a sports media person, access is obviously very important to me and I think it’s good for sports and ultimately athletes. But I don’t want athletes being forced to speak to me. I don’t want to interview someone who doesn’t want to be interviewed. That benefits no one. https://t.co/IeMU5twIal
— Matt Scalici (@MattScalici) May 31, 2021
Super nice of her to apologize to the tennis reporters, but if there are any of them who are "hurt" by any of this, we need to have a long talk. https://t.co/RDPCyNNKkg
— Chris Rongey (@ChrisRongey) May 31, 2021
Tennis, at a minimum, owes Naomi an apology. https://t.co/FIQkYSzC7c
— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) May 31, 2021
People are so used to thinking of athletes as entertainers that they forget how few of them actually want that kind of life at all https://t.co/6Dfc5J3N2a
— Caroline Darya Framke (@carolineframke) May 31, 2021
Gotta protect your peace at all cost 👏🏿 https://t.co/WWZ35hmHCw
— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) May 31, 2021
While difficult, Naomi Osaka’s decision could prove beneficial in the long run.
At the very least, it’ll begin a worthwhile conversation regarding the relationship between athletes and media members.