Tennis icon Billie Jean King says he is “torn” over Naomi Osaka’s decision not to speak to the press during the French Open.
The world No. 2 announced before the Grand Slam that she would not speak to the media to protect her sanity and, after her first round win on Sunday, she kept her word and did not attend. her post-match press conference.
The 23-year-old was fined an initial £10,800 for her refusal to give a press conference before or after her first-round win at Roland-Garros yesterday.
Naomi Osaka has been fined for refusing to hold her pre- and post-match press conferences
Tennis legend Billie Jean King says she’s torn over Osaka’s decision to boycott the media
Osaka has been warned that further sanctions could follow if she continues with her current stance, which could mean being kicked out of the tournament altogether.
King, who won 12 Grand Slam titles between 1966 and 1975, said players had a right to “speak their truth”, but also believes it is a “responsibility” to speak to the media.
In a statement on social media, she said: “I totally admire and respect what Naomi is doing with her platform, so I’m a bit torn as I try to learn from both sides of the situation.
‘While it is important that everyone has the right to speak their truth, I have always believed that as top athletes we have a responsibility to make ourselves available to the media.
‘In our time, without the press, no one would have known who we are or what we were thinking. There is no doubt that they have helped build and grow our sport into what it is today. ‘
And she added: “I recognize that things are very different now with social media and everyone has an immediate opportunity to speak their truth.
Naomi Osaka won her first round match, but is in danger of being kicked out of the French Open Franse
‘The media still plays an important role in telling our story. There is no doubt that the media must respect certain boundaries.
‘But in the end it is important that we respect each other and that we stand together.’
Osaka did give a brief on-court interview after her win over Patricia Maria Tig in the straight sets, saying: “I’m really happy to have won. Hopefully I’ll keep it up.”
Known for using her platform to advocate for social justice and equality, King was part of the “Original Nine” who founded the first-ever professional women’s tour.
After refusing to hold a press conference before or after her match, the four Grand Slams threatened to kick her out of the biggest tournaments of the year in addition to her fine.
Wimbledon was among the signatories of a statement that left no doubt that they are willing to escalate the matter to the category of ‘serious offense’ – which carries the potential sanction of outright disqualification.
The statement read: ‘The Roland-Garros teams asked her to reconsider her position and unsuccessfully tried to talk to her to check her well-being, understand the details of her problem and what could be done to address it on the spot. to pack.
Following Naomi Osaka’s lack of involvement, the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open wrote to her jointly to monitor and provide support for her well-being, underscore their commitment to the well-being of all athletes and dialogue on the issues. She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of non-compliance and that rules should apply equally to all players.
Unsurprisingly, repeated violations lead to tougher penalties, including tournament default and the start of a major felony investigation that could lead to higher fines and future Grand Slam suspensions.
As a sport, there is nothing more important than ensuring that no player has an unfair advantage over another, which is unfortunately the case in this situation, if one player refuses to spend time on media commitments while the others all fulfill their obligations. fulfill. ‘
Osaka did not immediately respond, although she tweeted last night: ‘Anger is a misunderstanding. Change makes people uncomfortable. ‘
Her sister, Mari, backed off after attempting to defend the Japanese star because she refused to attend press conferences.
In her first online post, Mari, 25, revealed that a comment from a relative had a negative effect on Naomi and added extra details about why her younger sister would fail to honor her media obligations at Roland Garros.
Osaka’s sister Mari (R) tried to defend her sister and her decision to boycott the press
Mari returned to her original Reddit post after an angry response from online users
“Naomi told me before the tournament that a relative had come to her and said she is bad at clay court. At every press conference she is told that she has a bad reputation on clay,” wrote Mari.
“When she lost in Rome, she was mentally unwell. Her confidence was completely shattered and I think everyone’s comments and opinions went to her head and she believed herself to be bad on clay.
“This is not true and she knows that in order to do it right and have a chance of winning Roland Garros, she has to believe she can do it. That’s the first step every athlete should do, believe in themselves.
“So her solution was to shut everything out. Don’t talk to people who start doubting (sic) in her head. She protects her mind hence it is called mental health.
“So many people are picky about this term because they think you have to have depression or some sort of disorder to use the term mental health.
“I don’t know what she’s going to do in the future when the tournament pushes back and threatens to put her in default, but I fully support my sister’s actions because she’s just trying to do what’s best for her. Tennis players are not paid to give press conferences. They are only paid when they win matches. ‘
However, Mari later deleted the post and uploaded a new statement, saying she made the situation worse after a response from online users.
Okay, so I f ***** it up. My words sound so terrible to many people who think that taking care of mental health is strategic,” wrote Mari.
“I didn’t emphasize that Naomi is dealing with a ton of shit and honestly fighting for mental health care in my post, so now a lot of people are taking it as ‘She doesn’t want to hear criticism’.
“I’m sorry Naomi, I probably made things worse.”