Naomi Osaka, 23, Sunday at Roland Garros. She then declined to participate in the press conference, saying she did not want to “submit” herself to journalists because they “doubted” her and she wanted to protect her mental health.
Tennis veterans Patrick McEnroe and Billie Jean King weighed in on the controversy over Naomi Osaka’s decision to boycott the press at the French Open, saying it is part of her job to speak to the press as the highest-paid female athlete ever. even if that made its uncomfortable.
The dispute began on Wednesday prior to the French Open when Osaka, 23, posted on social media that she would not speak to the media after playing because she wanted to protect her mental health and not subject herself to “ people who doubt her. ”
‘I’m not going to do press during Roland Garros. I’ve often felt that people don’t care about athletes’ mental health and this sounds a lot when I see or participate in a press conference. We sat there and asked questions that we have been asked several times before or we have asked questions that raise doubts in our minds and I’m just not going to submit myself to people who doubt me.
‘I believe the whole situation kicks a person while going down and I don’t understand the reason behind it.
“If organizations think they can just keep saying ‘press or get fired’ and ignore the athletes’ mental health … then I just laugh,” she said.
She was fined $ 15,000 – which she says she donates to a mental health charity – and received a stern warning from all four Grand Slam tournaments that she could be evicted if she continued to evade the press.
Osaka doubled down on her decision on Sunday by tweeting, “ Anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable. ‘
Her coach sent a different message in an interview with Der Spiegel.
In the US, the issue of athletes who want more freedom in their dealings with the press is very topical at the moment. They just don’t want to be threatened with punishment if they don’t feel well for a day. Naomi knows it’s important to talk to the press.
She doesn’t want to change things just for herself. For her it is a matter of principle: here too she wants to bring about change, ” said Wim Fissette to Der Spiegel.
Her decision has divided some tennis greats who say that while they praise her for drawing attention to mental health, part of her job is to speak to the media.
Osaka received $ 37.4 million in 2019, the highest amount for any female athlete in one year.
Patrick McEnroe, who won the French Open doubles in 1989, said Naomi still has to abide by certain rules, even though it is important to talk about mental health.
Billie Jean King, a tennis celebrity who won 39 Grand Slams, tweeted this statement last weekend, saying the media still has an “important role” in the sport.
Monday morning, Patrick McEnroe, who won doubles at the French Open in 1989, told Good Morning America that while he gave Osaka “ a lot of credit ” for highlighting the mental health issue, she should have worked with the tournament rather than refusing. to appear at the press conference.
Frankly, I was initially surprised to see her take this position, even though she was at the forefront of other very important issues – last summer’s Black Lives Matter issues.
She uses her platform to raise awareness on certain issues, very important – mental health is an incredibly important topic. I think there were a few missteps from Naomi and her team along the way as they looked at how this would turn out.
The federation contacted her, she apparently did not respond and so they released this statement which I felt was a bit harsh in threatening her with disqualification. I didn’t like that at all. I think the conversation should take place, there have been a lot of other athletes who have dealt with this, so I give Naomi an awful lot of credit for bringing this attention.
‘She’s a professional tennis player, she’s an athlete, so you have to stick to certain rules, one of which is talking to the press regularly. Now maybe that could be. We could work with her, the powers that be – they would love to have that discussion.
She is the highest paid female athlete in the world. She has a huge platform and a great player, but I thought that was too much, was going to threaten her too far. The statement until that was in order, they contacted her about mental health awareness. They said, is there any way to work this out, maybe get to a compromise in the short term? But in the long run, you can’t just let players decide to do what they want to do.
Osaka, 23, doubles down on her decision despite criticism from fellow athletes. She tweeted that on Sunday
Rafael Nadal and Ashleigh Barty both said they have no problem talking to the media, and they recognized that their careers wouldn’t look the same without the media.
“Once you become a professional athlete, you decide to play by certain rules of the game,” he said.
Billie Jean King tweeted on Sunday that she was also ‘torn’ about the matter.
‘I admire and fully respect what Naomi is doing with her platform, so I’m a little torn trying 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. ‘
‘I recognize that things are very different now with social media and everyone can immediately speak the truth.
‘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 are in this together.’
King, 77, is considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time and has won 39 Grand Slams during her career.
Fox Sports Radio presenter Rob Parker said the French Open should have told Osaka not to show up for the tournament if she couldn’t answer questions.
Rafael Nadal made similar comments during the press day prior to the tournament.
‘Of course I respect her as an athlete and her personality. I respect her decision. I do not know. I mean, we as sports people, I mean, we have to be willing to accept the questions and try to answer them, right?
‘I understand her, but on the other hand I mean to me, without the press, without the people who normally travel, who write the news and achievements that we have around the world, we probably won’t be the athletes that we are today.
‘We [wouldn’t] have the recognition we have all over the world, and we won’t be that popular, will we? ‘
World No. 1 Ashley Barty said: ‘We know what we sign up for as professional tennis players. I can’t really say what Naomi is feeling or her decisions she’s making.
‘Press conferences are sometimes difficult, of course, but it is also not something I am working on. I’ve never had a problem answering questions or being completely honest with you guys. It’s not something that has ever surprised me too much. ‘
Mari, Naomi’s sister, backed up a Reddit post after critics said it sounded like Naomi was using the topic of mental health as leverage to get journalists to stop asking her tough questions.
She had tried to explain her sister’s decision by saying she was upset that when she participates in press conferences, she is reminded that her clay record is not strong.