Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open after being threatened with suspension

TENNIS : Roland Garros French Open 2021 - Paris - 30/05/2021

Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open following her Round One win on Sunday. As we discussed, days before the French Open began, Osaka released a statement on her social media, announcing that she would not participate in the mandatory press conferences at the tournament and she would pay the fines. In her first statement, she blasted the sports journalists covering tennis tournaments, writing that players are “asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I am not going to subject myself to people who doubt me” and that “people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.” She accused her sport of “ignoring the mental health of athletes” and expressed her hope that her fines would go towards a mental health charity.

The reaction from the sports media, the mainstream media and the tennis establishment was immediate and all over the place. The top tennis players, already on the ground in Paris, were asked about Osaka in their pre-tournament interviews, and most players said versions of “my sympathy to Osaka, we don’t know what she’s going through, but doing media and press conferences is part of the job and I’m fine with it.” Osaka then played her first match on the biggest court at Roland Garros and she was briefly interviewed on court following her win. After that, she did not go into her press conference. The FFT (the French Federation of Tennis, organizers of the French Open) then announced that Osaka would be fined $15K for missing her first presser, but they made note of their worst case scenario as they also crafted their statement/threat with the other Slams (the US Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon):

Naomi Osaka announced last Wednesday on social media that she would not participate in the mandatory media interviews at Roland-Garros 2021. Following this announcement, the Roland-Garros teams asked her to reconsider her position and tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site.

Following the lack of engagement by Naomi Osaka, the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open jointly wrote to her to check on her well-being and offer support, underline their commitment to all athletes’ well-being and suggest dialog on the issues. She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players.

Naomi Osaka today chose not to honour her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct.

The mental health of players competing in our tournaments and on the Tours is of the utmost importance to the Grand Slams. We individually and collectively have significant resources dedicated to player well-being. In order to continue to improve however, we need engagement from the players to understand their perspective and find ways to improve their experiences. Every year we seek to deliver better experiences to our fans, our players and our people, and we have a long and successful track record in achievement on this count.

A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves. These interactions allow both the players and the media to share their perspective and for the players to tell their story. The facilitation of media to a broad array of channels, both traditional and digital, is a major contributor to the development and growth of our sport and the fan base of individual players.

We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences. As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament (Code of Conduct article III T.) and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions (Code of Conduct article IV A.3.).

[From Roland Garros/The Slams]

All of that means that tournament organizers and WTA officials were likely trying to communicate with Osaka and her team for days, only to be ignored. So they went nuclear and said that if she continued to opt out of press conferences, she could be disqualified from the French Open and possibly suspended from the tour entirely.

This caused a lot of whataboutism, especially about the fact that there are two ATP players in the French Open right now who are facing accusations of domestic violence, and the ATP tour and the Slams have not breathed a word about those guys. It was widely felt – even by former pros and the tennis commentary class – that FFT had gone far over-the-top with their threats of disqualification and suspension. Throughout it all, it definitely felt like everyone involved, including Osaka, were talking past each other instead of talking to one another. This was a sensitive situation which could have been handled privately with the multitude of WTA and Slam supervisors, tournament doctors and accessible mental health professionals attached to the major events. Instead, it ended in a f–ked up stand-off: a global tennis star versus the sports media, the tennis establishment and all four major tournaments. And then Osaka withdrew from the French on Monday:

I feel sorry for her and I absolutely think this was the right decision for her. I think everyone involved needs a big breather, and it would not even surprise me if Osaka withdrew from Wimbledon too. I also appreciate that she acknowledged that her first statement could have been clearer, because I think her wording (and her initial anti-press thing) became the focus of so many people’s reactions. The reason she notes that she would never trivialize mental health is because her sister Mari wrote (and then took down) a Reddit post where Mari tried to explain why Naomi was refusing to do press, and Mari made it sound like Naomi was skipping media because she didn’t want to answer questions about being bad on clay.

TENNIS : Roland Garros French Open 2021 - Paris - 30/05/2021

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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114 Responses to “Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open after being threatened with suspension”

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  1. Darla says:

    I don’t agree that there is a both sides to this. There is zero reason for any of these players to be forced to do press. The questions are often ludicrous and overly personal. Some are racist and/or sexist. She is a world class athlete, she’s there to play tennis, let her be.

    • Merricat says:

      +1

    • minx says:

      I respectfully disagree. Pro sports is inextricably linked with the media. These athletes wouldn’t be making the money they are without media coverage. Sports and athletes build interest and support, and therefore dollars, this way. They know when they sign up that this is part of the deal, if they have to sit through some repetitive questions, so be it. It’s like movie actors doing press junkets, part of their contracts. I admit I’m pro- media because my husband was a sports writer for many years. From what I’ve read this case had miscommunication on several sides and I do hope this young woman gets help.

      • hindulovegod says:

        They’re free to cover her. They are not free to harass her. The post-match press conferences are banal at best, but often predatory and racist. Check out the first question Gauff got and see if you’re still with the tennis press. (Spoiler: it was banal AND racist)

      • VS says:

        But she did part of the media requirements….. who watches post conference interviews? I do (only for my favorite players) because I love tennis but very few do; those interviews are absolutely horrible! have you listened to some of the questions? Serena has gotten absolutely horrible, horrible questions over the years! she has sometimes asked “journalists” (very loose term here) to apologize for their insane and useless questions

        The pool of reporters selected should be vastly improved! Naomi is one of the biggest superstars in tennis right now….she was fine with the “fine”; she just said no to answering the same boring questions over and over again! as she has also said, she is not well at the moment and didn’t want to be out there

        Someone has been sharing the Capriati interview! absolutely horrible display of “journalism”….how some of those athletes don’t snap at those reporters, I just don’t know

        Anyway, I was so happy she decided to withdraw instead of playing the mindless game with the media or succumbing to the threats. Every single player was asked about the Naomi situation….proof that those “reporters” are just mindless (at least some of them)!!!

      • MMadison says:

        Yes because last I checked the media was out there with Naomi everyday of her life practicing and nursing injuries. It was the media that made all of the sacrifices, Naomi just showed up and got paid. The rules should change. Her mental health should be just as important as her physical health. Once again we have a situation where the women of color is abused for speaking out and the white males are protected.

      • Myra says:

        The post-match conference has nothing to do with their money-making ability. That’s more to do with their skills on court, especially when they dominate the field or take out the best ranked player. And it’s not just repetitive questions, there are some incredibly rude, intrusive, sexist and racist comments, as well. If someone is physically injured, they would be forgiven for skipping a pre-scheduled side event. Her injury is silent and invisible, but it can be equally debilitating and harmful to her.

      • Mac says:

        The tennis pool is the worst in professional supports IMO. Players are often visibly annoyed by the questions, even when they win. The association needs to address the problem, not punish players for calling out BS.

      • Lizzie says:

        Sports media wouldn’t exist without the players. Not the other way around.

      • WTF says:

        That may have been somewhat true in the past. But not in the days of social media and digital marketing. What athletes say, is rarely beneficial to their image or the money-making ability.
        If there are rules for athletes, then there should be rules for journalists. Has any journalist been suspended for the racist, sexist questions that have been asked of Serena and Venus or Gauff or Martina or Billie Jean? Nope.

    • Snuffles says:

      Yeah, I don’t get why it’s a requirement either. I think the threats were ludicrous and unnecessary. Do they really think no one would do press if it was voluntary? I think most would, but they should have the option to opt out if they are struggling at the moment.

      • minx says:

        I don’t think most would, and even so, it makes it unequal. As it stands now an athlete who opts out of press conferences can rest, relax, practice, whatever, while their competitor is forced to talk to reporters.

      • VS says:

        @minx: why not have a system where a player can skip a certain amount of press conferences at a major in one year? that way, Naomi could have skipped the RG ones….I suspect she won’t play Wimbledon as well….
        I am a hardcore Williams sisters fan; I am 100% with Naomi on this….

      • Snuffles says:

        @minx

        If you believe most athletes would opt out if not required, then what does that say about sports media? Because it sounds like to me deep down you realize how harsh it is and no one would subject themselves to it if given the option.

      • Mac says:

        It’s required because press is what keeps fans interested and sponsors happy. The problem isn’t the press requirement, it’s the quality of the press covering tennis.

      • MissMarirose says:

        I think most in tennis would opt out, given what I’ve seen of the tennis press.

        But sports like baseball get players to talk all the time. Until COVID, reporters got to enter the locker room and speak to anyone who would talk to them. Most did.

        That says to me that if players think reporters are fair and forthright, they’ll talk – even after a loss.

    • NTheMiddle says:

      There really isn’t any reason for it. I’m so disappointed in everyone’s reactions to this… there’s truly a lack of understanding in how Naomi feels. Serena Williams sounded supportive until she compared herself as ‘thick-skinned’ and Naomi as ‘thin’… it implies that Naomi is weak and rubbed me the wrong way. The weak one stomped her a$$.

      • BlueSky says:

        Yes you are right! These WOC should just shut up and take the incredibly sexist, racist questions and abuse they get from the press. The press should do no self reflection on how they treat male and female athletes differently. I guarantee you if she was white this conversation would be very different. Yes, let’s not allow WOC to call the shots and tell everyone that mentally they are struggling and should just thank everyone for allowing them to be in this space and continue to subject themselves to sexist questions. We can debate all day how it could have been handled better but at the end of the day everyone seems to want to be dismissive of this girl and want her to be the mule.

      • VS says:

        She didn’t say Naomi is thin skinned, she said some people are thin skinned….what’s wrong with being thin skinned anyway? some people can’t handle the BS….that should be ok.

        As Barack said in his interview with James Corden, in politics you have to be able to stand some nonsense and meanness…. but why is that? why is there a need to be mean? we can disagree without being mean or without requiring athletes to be “tough”…

      • Myra says:

        I honestly heard her say, I am thick and some are thin and I thought she was implying that people are physically built differently so everyone is different.

      • mellie says:

        I don’t think Serena meant it in a bad way, I think she just meant that she’s been through it over and over…she’s developed a thick skin for all the dumba$$ questions. Naomi is young, she’s not yet learned to let that $hit roll off her back. I really don’t think Serena meant any harm by her comments.

      • WTF says:

        I don’t think she meant it like that either. Serena and Venus have endured some of the most vitriolic, racist and sexist attacks. And through all of it, they were weirdly stoic. I think she means they had to push it all down, and good for Naomi for not pushing it down. They really like and respect each other.

    • LadyMTL says:

      The reason they’re made to do press is because the sponsors want the athletes faces out there, and since the tourneys /prize moneys are funded in a large part thanks to sponsors, the organizers basically tell the athletes that it’s “part of the deal.” I don’t think it’s right but it’s hardly new…it’s a business, not just a sport.

      That said, I 100% feel like Osaka made the right decision. If her mental health is suffering (and it sounds like she’s been struggling off and on for years) no presser is worth it. FFT shot themselves in the foot by threatening to kick her out instead of stepping up and offering to help. I hope Osaka can focus on her needs and well-being despite this whole drama.

    • Oh_Hey says:

      This. They ask inane questions to the women about who they’re dating and what type of clothe they like as if this were a red carpet event. They often ask the black players about being compared to the Williams sisters even when neither of them are playing. It’s gross and the tennis association not protecting its players so Naomi protected herself and then they tried to come for her. If she had come out and pulled a marshawn lunch she would have gotten heat too. This was the most dignified option they left her with.

    • Lemons says:

      There is a whole ecosystem in professional sports that makes press conferences necessary. Fans want to hear a debrief from the athlete as with ALL sports. It’s a part of being a professional athlete and is not unique to tennis.

      The press conference system needs to be revamped and rehauled. There are too many instances of reporters asking micro-aggressive questions or just plain racist and misogynistic questions that are designed for an easy controversial soundbite. They truly need to get it together because players can easily have their own post-game debrief on their Instagram Lives and TickTocks, so they can be taken out of the equation.

      Naomi sounds like she needs to take a step back which can be hard for any athlete as there is always this pressure to compete and win or miss out on the chance to earn a new title. The tennis community should be supporting her rather than publicizing the actions they will take if she doesn’t follow asinine rules. If she said she’d pay the fine, let her pay it. If the other players don’t want to pay a fine or want to do press, let them.

      Also Piss Megain made comments trying to tie Naomi’s statements with H&M. He has an issue with Black women and mental health and should be silenced at this point.

      • readingissexy says:

        Lemons, I like your reasoning. There are multiple media ecosystems associated with specific careers. And yes, while women and POC 100% know of the media going into these careers, they may be unprepared for, or angry/distressed by, the inequity they experience while interacting with the media. Media coverage of minorities/women is almost ways subtly lopsided, rude, hostile, damaging, paternalistic, and insulting.

        And sometimes you don’t even recognize these nuances of the media until you’re in it! I could see someone not understanding this as a 14 year old starting sports r something.

      • Lemons says:

        @readingissexy The problem is definitely from lopsided media coverage. If her issue is just, “I don’t like when they question my clay skills.” I would tell her to get her head together. But as a Black-Asian woman, she is dealing with so much more going into each press conference. The anxiety can be debilitating. Putting up walls and keeping a thick skin is not enough for everyone.
        I’m hoping she pulls through, but tennis is tough. You can have a strong support system, but at the end of the day, you’re by yourself on the court.

    • detritus says:

      I’ve always hated how the press treats athletes. Mid game or directly post game interviews should be off the table imo. They impact performance directly, even the less provocative questions.

      Give the athletes time to hydrate, eat, take a nap and recover if they need it.

      For an example of how little the media cares for the human dignity of athletes just look at the Sun’s Captain Crunch cover of Tavares’ injuries. Injuries that could have killed him or left him paralyzed for life.

      • Cisne says:

        I like your thoughtful comments. It appears like the Grand Slam ppl do not want to think to deeply about what they do. They do not want to be bothered with thinking of change.

    • PrincessK says:

      My blood is presently boiling because Meghan Markle is being dragged into this.
      Some idiots are blaming her for Osaka’s withdrawal saying that she is the culprit because she has weaponised mental health!!!

    • BothSidesNow says:

      @ WTF, I agree wholeheartedly! If the players are required to be present, the journalists must be limited in their questions. The journalist should be allowed to make any remarks that could be considered sexist, racist, body shaming or any other cats gory that is unprofessional. Women have been treated like meat for decades, but men are treated as gods, add the pay shows in many sport divisions!! If the authorities aren’t going to protect the players, they should have control over their ability to play. The players play for their love of the sport, not the abuse from these slimy journalists. Protect the players, not the media!

    • Christine says:

      I absolutely agree, across all sports. There are obvious showmen and women, but that is just their personality, they would be that way in any career (see also, LeBron James, et.al.). I see no need to force public speaking on professional athletes, as a job requirement.

    • Anna says:

      This x 10000000

  2. Cecilia says:

    I mean the way the tennis world reacted pretty much proved her point of them not taking athletes mental health into consideration. I don’t understand it anyways, because sports journalism has seriously gone downhill (much like journalism in general). She’s a tennis player who’s there to play tennis. Im sorry but the way the media reacted was way out of proportion

  3. Amy Bee says:

    Nah she said she was not doing press to safeguard her mental health from the get go. The press, tournament and some fans just didn’t want to hear it.

    • Woke says:

      Exactly, they weren’t willing to admit these press conferences were exacerbating her mental health issues

  4. NCWoman says:

    I think the focus on how she worded her statement as an excuse to attack her and ignore the very real issues she was discussing is beyond horrifying. Mental health has multiple threads, So, it can be true that she was avoiding questions about her clay game, not because she didn’t want to take responsibility for her failures, but because she’s in a mental place where it can trigger her into a full-scale crisis. There will always be plenty of athletes who do want to talk after a match, win or lose, because it suits their personalities. But to require it of people when it’s a stressor or trigger and not accommodate other options for meeting with the press on a regular basis is not a good look. To further threaten her with sanctions beyond the French Open–tennis should be ashamed of itself. And so should every single person who attacked her on social media.

  5. Elvie says:

    I agreed that Naomi’s first statement was messy, but the press became SO butt hurt and aggressive that they proved her point, and then the Slams went nuclear.

    Her first fine was $15,000. When Djokovic refused press last summer at the US Open he was fined $10,000. I also haven’t heard of a fine being levied against Zverev for showing up late on court. Naomi was willing to pay the fine and I think that’s her right. I’m so nervous that she will become another Björn Borg type cutting off her career early due to constant pressure, attention and burn out and who wants that? No one.

    Tennis can be very archaic and slow to react to social change. These assholes rarely convene to decide anything and yet they met especially to threaten and bully a young Black-Asian woman. smh.

  6. Willow says:

    After she posted her statement saying she wasn’t doing media and before announcing they were attempting to talk to her, the FFT posted on social media pictures of several tennis players talking to the press with the statement ‘they understood the assignment’. They only took it down after complaints. So, yes, she botched up notifying the tournament, but they were very quick to embarrass her BEFORE trying to talk to her.

    • Elvie says:

      I only saw that tweet last night when one of my fav Tennis podcasters shared it on Twitter. I was appalled. The audacity of the FFT. Also the irony of refusing to take questions after their weak statement last night.

    • Anna says:

      Of course they would. Any chance to help bring down their rival, a BIPOC woman, and kick her while she’s down. Trash, all of them.

  7. tolly says:

    Osaka said that she understood and accepted the consequences of saying no to press conferences. Then she followed through, and tennis officials immediately threatened to escalate the consequences far beyond anything laid out in their own regulations. This is a ridiculously disproportionate response on their part, and it would never happen to a white man. They are freaking out because they don’t think that she should be allowed to say no to them.

  8. Myra says:

    I feel really bad for her and wish her well with her mental health. This particular situation probably doesn’t help and further adds another stressful trigger for her next tournament. Naomi is not like other players. She suffers from social anxiety which could cause or lead to agoraphobia. Just because they can deal with the press conference right after a game, doesn’t mean that she can. That’s a real health issue that is worsened by the nature of the questions asked after a win or loss. The reaction of many were unkind and at times, absolutely cruel. I cannot believe that right as we close mental health awareness month, we have all demonstrated that we have learnt absolutely nothing about mental health.

  9. SheaButterBaby says:

    My heart goes out to Naomi 💔 And now on top of everything else, disgusting and racist Piers Morgan is now harassing her. His obsession with women of color is sick.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      @ SheaButterBaby, that is absolutely disgusting, but that is him M.O., the POS he is! He would drag a pink envelope through the gutter due to its tie with femininity!
      I feel so bad for her and I think that everyone has behaved badly in regards to Naomis struggles. They should have listened to her and supported her. If they don’t protect her mental health, they don’t respect her or her commitment to the game.

  10. Amy T says:

    Good. For. Her.

    Whether this changes diddly or not, there’s no better move she could make. I’m particularly thinking of the recent post here about Elizabeth Olsen’s recent statements about the power of no. She’s celebrated for it; Osaka is being pilloried. The good thing though, is that Naomi Osaka, at 18, is looking past this moment and at the rest of the kind of life she wants to live.

    Whether she ever swings a tennis racket at a tournament again (and I suspect she will, and on her own terms), she’s changed the game. From where I sit, she’s a champion.

    • Darla says:

      ^^^^ I thought of Olsen’s recent comments too, and you’re right. Absolutely. I’d say it’s interesting but this ww feminism lost my interest a long time ago.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      I agree. They essentially forced one of their biggest money-makers to disclose her history of depression to the world before making her choose to withdraw from the tournament rather than having fans see her play. For what? To protect repetitive, lazy press questions which often become racist & sexist? What kind of business model is that? It’s designed to extract as much as possible from a woman of color with no regard for what it costs to her as a human.

      F*ck that. Go Naomi.

    • Anna says:

      18 years old and taking on the racist, sexist, bullshit sports association. I hope and pray that she will have the support she needs and will emerge the leader that she is. This whole situation is so disgusting and agreed @Lizzy Bathory re: forcing her to disclose.

  11. LightPurple says:

    Just some legal background on what this situation would be like if this was happening in an American company in the US under the ADA. The employee has indicated that she can’t do a requirement of the job. The employer would be on notice that a reasonable accommodation may be necessary. The employer is obligated to start a dialogue with the employee about what accommodation is necessary and whether it is reasonable under the ADA. In the meantime, however, the employer can continue to hold the employee to the provisions of the contract. Steps 1 (Naomi’s initial statement; Step 2 Roland Garros has indicated that it has reached out to her “check on her well-being, understand the specifics, of her issue and what may be done to address it on site.” Legally, Roland Garros would have met its first requirement under the ADA, beginning the dialogue. Someone on Naomi’s team would have to reach back and answer the questions and negotiate a solution. It sounds like that part isn’t happening yet.. Only if they did so and Roland Garros then refused an accommodation and a judge determined that her request wasn’t unreasonable, would Roland Garros be found at fault under the ADA. But, of course, this isn’t the US and the ADA doesn’t apply.

    I wish her all the best and hope they can reach a resolution to this that works for all.

    • lee says:

      The only solution is one nobody wants to hear. Other than baseball or skating I don’t know any other sport where kids as young as 13 are harrassed and bullied by their parents and coaches into becomming champions. These players are too young to be put in these tournaments. They have no life experience other than playing tennis and burn out soon. This girl is 20 and has to put up with the world wide pressure of a grinding tour and the international spotlight of reporters asking her adult questions. She never had a normal childhood. I know Lebron went into the NBA straight out of high school but he plays in a team sport and the focus isn’t solely on him. The movement in US team sports is to increase the age limit. If she had been allowed to go to college she might have been able to handle the pressure better. I know people will bring up Chris Evert but it was a different time before social media. These young kids should have some kind of mental health counseling as part of the tour and there should be an age limit.

      • Olivia says:

        What? Lots of other sports have a hyper competitive youth element. Especially the individual ones. Swimming, gymnastics etc. Baseball? That’s an odd comparison. Little League is pretty mainstream a lot of kids do it to have fun and a lot show talent, but even then there’s a pretty developed infrastructure to go pro. College ball, minor league, and so forth. I don’t think it’s really comparable to the more “coddled” youth sports. I don’t mean coddled dismissively but a lot of the tennis, gymnastics, swimming kids who show promise end up sort of bubbled. And that can be an epic mind f*uck if not downright dangerous (see gymnastics sex abuse scandal). Definitely not as prevalent in youth baseball. I don’t think there’s anything unique to baseball youth “harassment” that doesn’t exist in the other team sports. I’m still not even sure it’s as pronounced as you’re saying.

        But fully agree the more individual elite sports (tennis, skating, gymnastics, swimming) need to be very careful and rethink how how children and teens are guided and supported and protected.

    • lee says:

      And you have the additional problem of many of the reporters being part of the tennis industrial complex. Evert reports on tennis but has a tennis academy that grooms future tennis superstarts. Many former players are now coaches. No one wants to upset the appletree. Naomi will be ok. She has millions in the bank but the lesser players wind up being spit out. I do believe this young woman suffers from crippling anxiety its just unfortunate none of her handlers took the time to dialog with the media and the mental health professionals before she went public with her decision to stop the press conferences.

    • WTF says:

      I disagree with your ADA analogy in that the employer didn’t just try to start a dialogue. They posted disparaging public comments on social media(“they understood the assignment”) and then they issued a statement threatening her future employment. That directly refutes the idea that they were seeking to accommodate her. The threat is also a problem because it goes beyond their contractual remedy to her alleged breach (issuing a fine).
      More importantly though, as many have pointed out, this isn’t how they’ve treated her white male colleagues in the past. Her fine was higher. She was threatened with future punishments.

  12. Becks1 says:

    Okay so I’m trying to piece this together in my mind. As a threshold matter, I understand why tennis wants the players to do the press conference – and it’s not unique to tennis. Remember Marshawn Lynch’s “I’m just here so I don’t get fined”? And it seems that its part of their contract? Do they sign contracts with the governing tennis organizations? (can you tell I dont really follow tennis lol.)

    But then it seems that the problem is the particular behavior of the reporters covering tennis – asking question designed to rattle the player, throw them off, or questions that are racist/sexist/etc. And it IS different from something like football that I referenced above, because you’re playing the next match pretty soon after. So if you’re going to harass a QB after a game, they have a week to get over it and find their footing again etc – if you’re going to harass a tennis player in the middle of a major tournament, the turnaround time is a lot shorter. And it sounds like that is more Naomi’s issue? Like she’s not saying she’s never talking to the press again. She’s saying she’s not doing the press conferences during a tournament.

    It seems to me if tennis wants her there so badly, they should address the nature of some of the questions being asked.

    Finally – it definitely seems that they escalated this quickly and beyond the rules. She said she was willing to pay the fines, but then they started to talk about kicking her out – it definitely reads like they were just mad that they couldn’t control her.

    I’m only really following this in headlines so will be interested to read other comments on this.

  13. whatever. says:

    Mari Osaka’s statement was a hot mess and made everything 10 x worse 🤷🏻‍♀️. If you get SO triggered just because a family member said you are rubbish on clay which makes you not want to answer questions relating to your clay game you should probably get professional help rather than go to a tournament 🤷🏻‍♀️.

    And why even mention that they don’t get paid for doing press conferences?. Mari makes it sound like if Naomi was paid enough money she would attend 🤦🏽‍♀️.

    • Oh-Dear says:

      It isn’t just someone getting triggered by a comment. Professional sports and competition are very mental and require significant physical and mental preparation. Comments like that and some of the questions by reporters undermine it. It would be like have an athlete go out and prep on a very wet pitch without cleats, increasing the risk of injury before a game. Their job is to be mentally and physically prepared to compete at the highest level. For some, reporter questions are not productive.

  14. Darla says:

    Well, as far as the sponsors go, yeah it’s a great look for a brand to have a woman who is telling you she is struggling mentally to be forced to sit in front of your logo and answer questions from asshats.

    If any of these brands had someone with something going on upstairs running isht, they would release a statement supporting Naomi and supporting mental health and self-care.

  15. MsIam says:

    I don’t believe she said she would never do press again right? And in other sports, if there is an issue with a player, you will see in the reporting “So and so was not made available for interviews after the game”. So its not like this is unprecedented in sports reporting. Of course, those are mostly male athletes, so…..

  16. mellie says:

    I don’t think any of the players should have to deal with the media, it should totally be up to them. We watch the match, they win or they lose….why do those people have to go through that? Especially if they don’t win, that’s horrible, no matter who you are. Leave them all alone. I don’t need all that extra verbiage. Everything has to be so dramatic, just let the players play the game. I just don’t understand why that’s not enough, that’s their talent, they aren’t all public speakers, that’s not what they are getting paid to do.

  17. I feel for her. She is so young and it was clear when she won the US Open in 2018 that she was anxious and an introvert. I felt so sad to hear her tearfully apologize to the booing crowd for winning. Serena’s long meltdown and barrage of questions regarding her meltdown from the ‘journalists’ to Osaka would not have helped her mental health. This should have been a happy occasion for her.
    I hope she stays safe and can manage the anxiety in good time.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Yes, I will never forget what was done to her that day. She won that match fairly and soundly but was not allowed to bask in the glow of her victory afterwards because of everything else that went on during and after the match.

  18. Gingerbee says:

    If Naomi had pulled a Marshawn Lynch at the Q and A, those aholes would still talk about it. I am glad that she stood her ground.

    • HeatherC says:

      I know. I wish she would though.

      For those that don’t know, Marshawn Lynch is a football player who tries to never talk to media on press conferences. The NFL threatened to fine him if he didn’t participate in a press conference after the Super Bowl in 2015. To every question his answer was: “You know why I’m here. I’m here so I don’t get fined.”

      Beast Mode is a legend in my book.

      • Anna says:

        Yes, but she is not Marshawn. She gets to approach this as herself, as is best for her. I agree his response is excellent. But her stand is not to participate and that’s just as valid.

  19. Liz version 700 says:

    They want to force her to interview so they can pick her apart as a black woman. The racism in tennis is becoming hard to ignore. If someone says they need to preserve their mental health, believe them

  20. TIFFANY says:

    Billie Jean King getting dragged on Twitter for not minding her business is the only thing that made me laugh in this sad situation for Naomi.

    • PrincessK says:

      Serena Williams is being pulled into this drama as well.

    • MissMarirose says:

      BJK had some nerve with her statement saying that Naomi has a duty to share “her truth” to the media when she was hiding “her truth” in the closet during her playing days.

  21. Midge says:

    Part of being a top athlete is the mental strength needed to deal with the pressures. I don’t doubt her mental health struggles, but similar to a physical injury, she should treat the illness and then return to the game. While my gut reaction is to defend her, I cannot because in the end this is part of the job, her contract, the promotion of the game, and the business model.

    Also, as @Minx notes above, opting out gives her an unfair advantage over other players.

    • Ohreally says:

      Isn’t it interesting that @minx and @midge think the issue is only Naomi and her mental health while ignoring that the media is not really good at their job as a whole. Someone asked CoCo Gauff if she was similar to Naomi because she’s Black? I’m loosely quoting, but that was by far the stupidest and honestly a common thought in European (and their American cousins) that they think they should open their mouths and say. The difference being that that idiotic question in a social setting, although grating and consistent, should be deemed unprofessional in a press setting. Please hold the press to a standard so they can stop asking athletes the same stupid questions that they burden their Black friends with. Your friend’s husband’s cousin that’s in media should tell his cohorts to BE BEST, and then maybe Naomi wouldn’t be putting these tournaments on blast for not being balanced. She was quite thorough on her IG using the video of the Williams interview showing how the media treats Black athletes. I would say all, but we all know that it’s a consistent issue for one group more than others. And if you think that the French Open would troll Sharapova like they just did Naomi (a not cheating #2) then I want to sell you all the bridges worldwide for a great price. Ethnicity will always be an issue even when you think it’s not because it’s built into the system. You don’t have to agree, and I don’t think Kaiser even considers that a lot probably happened behind the scenes and she is taking the face value details because it’s not like large corporations never pretend they are hearing something for the first time when it’s not the truth. They’re trying to play her, by playing themselves. Serena is trying to get her record and legacy in order, but trust and believe she will have much to say. The way they treated her bodysuit for BLOOD CLOTS is a clear indication that trusting their words of being willing to work with her was not on the table.

    • MF1 says:

      I 100% agree. I would add that since doing media is part of her job, the FFT (who are essentially her employer in this situation) should be required to protect her from dealing with sexism and racism in the media.

  22. Chelsea says:

    I agree that her first statement wasnt the best but threatening her with suspensions when she already agreed to pay the fines was such a gross overreaction especially because she has literally admitted previously in PRESS CONFERENCES to struggling with depression and has literally been on the verge tears in previous press conferences so they can’t play the excuse that they didnt know. They knew the issues she has but tried to publicly humiliate her and put her in her place. What has been additionally bothersome but not completely surprising about this ordeal has been the worst actors in the British press engaging in a pile on because we all know there’s nothing they love more than trying to claim ownership on high profile biracial women and “putting them in their place”.

    I’m glad she’s taking time to take care of herself. Comparatively her game earnings are a very small part of the wealth that has made her the highest paid female athlete in the world(which is why the argument that press conferences and the cash prize at each tourney are linked and thus if she wants one she has to take the other doesnt make sense). But i know she loves the sport and she will want to be back out there as soon as she can and obviously i will miss watching her play but she’s got to do whats right for her.

  23. Ocho says:

    I heard the FFT comment that people wouldn’t know who the players were if not for the post-match interviews. What?! I know who Serena is from watching her play. I know who Rafa is from watching him play. I know who Naomi is from watching her play. Not from their f-ing interviews — which I don’t watch because they are offensive and banal and give real sports journalists a bad name. I found that shockingly arrogant.

  24. Case says:

    I think this is a complicated issue. I don’t think athletes (or actors, or musicians, etc.) should be forced to do press if they struggle with things like anxiety and depression, and the press circuit makes their symptoms heightened. These people trained their entire lives to do their jobs, not talk to reporters, so the idea that they MUST do press if they do not want to is ridiculous (I say this as a reporter, lol). However, if it is part of an agreement to do press, then that’s what you agreed to.

    I think the issue here is that press should not be mandatory and that people’s mental health should be taken more seriously. But in this particular case, since Naomi could not fulfill her requirements, I think it was right for her to withdraw. She’s a huge draw and very talented, and perhaps this move will make other tournaments reconsider their requirements around press conferences.

  25. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    The whole damn system needs a revamp. Why does there have to be a particular time and place for press junkets, appeasing them and THEIR schedules? If a player needs, for any reason, to manage press following a match, so be it. This information and digital age means options and diversified coverage. The way that tennis and media are handling this is ridiculous and antiquated. And it proves the very reasons she didn’t want interviews before her matches in the first place. Motherfrackers.

  26. Kristen says:

    While I agree that post-game interview questions are ridiculous, they are ridiculous in every single sport. So there’s certainly room for improvement there, no question.

    That said, these tournaments are able to pay athletes from the revenue that they make from not only ticket sales, but advertisers, sponsors, and rights sold to networks. The after-game interviews are a part of what those businesses pay for, and a part of how players are able to make money. Players agree to these as part of their contract when they accept a spot in the tournament. Players can advocate for change to the sport (and Osaka has the clout to do that), but they cannot expect to get paid without doing part of what allows them to be paid in the first place.

    • lee says:

      There may be ways in the future for tournaments to address a player with depression like Naomi. They can limit the amont of time of the press conference to say 15 minutes, limit the number of questions, allow a cool off period for atheletes to decompress after an event, make a psychiatrist available at the conference, have a neutral third person who can limit the type of questions the player finds objectionable, ban questions to only tennis, blackball certain reporters who cross the line. But you have to be realistic. The advertisements support the sports and pay the bills.

    • MissMarirose says:

      Nonsense. Naomi was willing to accept the fines that some with avoiding the press conferences, so you can’t say that she was getting paid for something she didn’t do.
      The problem lies in the tournament threatening to expel her for refusing to do a minor part of the job. It’s also pretty stupid of them, because now they don’t have one of the most exciting players on the tour playing in their tournament.

      • Kristen says:

        The fines aren’t there so that you can keep doing/not doing something in perpetuity. The fine is a deterrent. $15,000 per doesn’t make up the cost of lost ad revenue. It’s like a speeding ticket – you can’t just keep getting ticket after ticket — at some point they take away your license because you’re refusing to follow the rules.

  27. Veronica S. says:

    I have mixed feelings about it because it is part of the job, and she would have known that going into the field. It’s just the reality of most careers that you’re going to encounter a part you don’t enjoy a lot. However, I do think if there’s some serious mental health issues attached to for it, there’s no reason to keep forcing her to do it. Let her get a doctor’s note and be done with it.

  28. Victoria says:

    I love how people want to make Serena the villain . How typical.

    Not an Osaka fan. I see throught it all. But I’m glad she is practicing self care.

  29. Lizzie says:

    Do baseball players have this same requirement?

    • Becks1 says:

      I don’t know about baseball players, but football players do.

    • MissMarirose says:

      Not really. Before COVID, reporters could approach players in the locker room after a game to see if they would be willing to speak. Since last year, the team makes one or two players or coaches available by ZOOM after a game. It’s up to the team to decide who is made available to the press.

  30. Truthiness says:

    I support Naomi. ♥️

  31. Feebee says:

    When the FFT went nuclear courtesy of the other GS directors, they flicked a switch for me. I don’t give a shit how many times they say they tried to contact her. I don’t believe it was ever about checking on her well-being, it would have been about pressuring her to change her mind, period. She knew that and that’s why she didn’t respond.

    The 4 GS letter was so overtly threatening it was disgusting. I see why they want to nip this in the bud because to not do that threatens the power structure. I didn’t see any letters being sent when Hurkarz turned up at a presser in Monte Carlo and not one question was asked of him! Seriously, they couldn’t even be bothered to ask him how he felt about his victory. Where was the media’s upkeeping their side of the bargain? And now we have all these guys writing about this story, of which they are a part and no-one’s asking how they can possibly be objective about it.

    I’ve lost a lot of respect for certain people in tennis over this but Osaka isn’t one of them.

  32. Amelie says:

    I don’t follow tennis so I don’t really know where I stand on all of this. But Naomi is very young at 23 and I think she has a lot to learn when it comes to expressing herself. I’m not sure she should have put out a statement ahead of time saying she wouldn’t do press–she had to know that would cause a lot of controversy and bring her even more media attention. I don’t know if she tried to contact Roland-Garros organizers privately and let them know she would take the fines, or maybe she should have put out a statement after her first match. And as for her sister, I understand why she spoke up. She saw the world kicking her sister down and she wanted to defend her, but unfortunately she made it even worse. I don’t know the right way this should have been handled, but I also don’t think it’s a good look from the media to be hyperfocusing on a young player who is also a WOC. If a white female player had put out this statement, what would the reaction have been? Would the media have treated it the same way? Probably not.

    • L4frimaire says:

      I don’t know the structure of tennis or how many people a player is allowed to have around them, but based on this, Osaka isn’t being protected enough to navigate this on her own and this situation has made worse whatever she’s going through. Wish her health and that she’ll return when she is ready.

    • Queen Meghan's Hand says:

      @Amelie and @L4frimaire: I’m feeling the same way. I don’t think Osaka handled the situation well by publishing that first iOS press release before speaking privately to the tournament organization. The premature public statement and her sister’s Reddit post make me worry about the people who are around her and advising her.

      • Amelie says:

        Well that’s the thing, I don’t think she really consulted anyone before publishing that post. Because if she had, I think a lot of people would have told her NOT to do it. Now it’s possible she did ask some people and maybe they agreed with her, maybe they didn’t. But I have a feeling she was going to go through with it no matter what and being so young, she really didn’t understand the ramifications of how the media and the tennis officials would react to it. And I’m guessing Mari probably didn’t tell her sister she was going to post that on Reddit. My guess is she was emotional and wanted to defend her sister and like Naomi, she really didn’t think things through.

        Regardless, I think sports organizations, including tennis, need some major reform to protect their players’ mental health and they need to reevaluate how they treat people of color.

      • L4frimaire says:

        Whether she did this the right or wrong way, she is still young and this is a growing pain to navigate superstardom under a microscope. I hope she isn’t demonized by this and it affects her reputation, because she has been the golden girl in a way, with a lot of good will. It came across as impulsive and wonder if she wrote it while going through something, with no support or advocate. She is fallible and obviously wasn’t prepared to face the press during the tournament nor the backlash from her statement. She’s an amazing athlete and hope she recovers from this with better mental health and more support both within and outside of tennis. Also want to add that coming out of pandemic and the last year, there is this aggressiveness and meanness towards people, especially when they set boundaries or admit weakness, or don’t play by the rules the way we expect. Like expecting us to go from 0-60 faster then some of us are ready for.

  33. Helonearth says:

    The FFT President came out, gave his prepared statement and didn’t take any questions from the journalists/reporters. Hope the irony is not lost on him.

    Mental health should be treated the same is physical health.

  34. why? says:

    She was very clear. She stated that she is an introvert and some times introverts just don’t feel like talking.

    • Case says:

      Beyond taking care of those with mental health issues, I wish workplaces in general were more introvert-friendly. It’s basically not acceptable to be an introvert as a professional; when I have to go to networking events or conferences I’m absolutely drained at the end of the day and can’t believe I have to wake up and do it again the next day. Whereas I have other coworkers who thrive off of it and doing that stuff is like a perk, not something to suffer through. Everyone’s brain doesn’t work the same, and I hope that starts making its way into inclusion practices in the workplace at some point.

      • Anna says:

        I think this is larger than an introvert-extovert issue. Events are exhausting, period, and especially when you are a BIPOC woman in almost every industry where you’re either the only one or one of a few and everything is steeped in racism and sexism.

        I grew up in a family that constantly referred to me as an extrovert as the oldest child and forced me into situations to take charge and be vocal which I did because I wanted to please my parents and for survival. I was never cared for because of the assumption that I could handle it all due to this framing of extrovert that was basically placed on me for their purposes. In adulthood, it has meant decades of paralyzing anxiety and depression to the point where now, I rarely can engage with people at all. Even Zoom now in pandemic causes extreme anxiety.

        So I just suggest looking in a more nuanced way at how individuals approach the world rather than these binaries of “introvert” or “extrovert”.

  35. Kate says:

    I think what she did makes complete sense. Have you guys watched any kind of post-game conference? They are so damn awkward. My husband follows the Yankees and after Daunte Wright was shot, one of the players Aaron Hicks sat out the game that night. So the reporters asked the other players about Hicks’ reaction to someone else being killed, whether they supported him, etc. It was beyond inappropriate in my opinion. Like I’m sorry are we in a 7th grade cafeteria right now gossiping? And on a normal day players get grilled about every misstep or error or what were they thinking and do they think they will be better tomorrow. It’s really awful in my opinion I don’t understand why we make athletes stand up there basically in front of a firing squad when it’s well known that a large percentage of an athelete’s performance is mental. And in tennis even more so because it’s just one person out there – not a team. Read Andre Agassi’s autobiography if you want an idea of what it’s like inside a pro player’s mind and body during a game or tournament. One tiny miscalculation or hint of doubt can make them lose focus and lose a game.

  36. lelbit says:

    Im sorry but rules are rules yes they can be changed but these young people think all they have to do is mention mental health especially after banking 50+ mill. Yes things do need to change but i’m 60+ and we get bullied constantly at work and still have to go by rules and we don’t make millions not even 80,000. There is nothing we can say or do or we get let go. How do you think the common people feel, we have to deal with this day by day for most of our working life. Re evaluate your game and decide if you dont want to follow the rules, simple. We all have funk days, depression, etc but we can’t all change things. Our jobs here at the hospital are not changing and I start something i’m fired. So Naomi get therapy and stay out as long as needed. I for one am a huge tennis fan but honestly Naomi is not my favorite.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      Rules are rules…which is why she said in advance she’d pay the fine for not doing press. They need her more than she needs them. They just don’t like that she knows her value & is protecting herself.

      And “funk days” are not the same as depression, which she is describing. You shouldn’t be bullied at work. You say “we can’t all change things.” That may be true, but why attack Naomi for trying?

      • lelbit says:

        Yes i know she stated she would pay fine so why did she quit. In sports there is always someone new and coming up. And my message also said depression and i’m not attacking Naomi (dont you just love the way women act to other women) I just see alot of new generation trying to change things when many generations have had to endure way more for pennies on the dollar and no one sticks up for us. Look at Serena how she was bullied, being racist and no one ever stuck up for her. I just think Naomi should have went about it a little differently.

      • Lizzie Bathory says:

        @lelbit After she preemptively offered to pay the fine, they threatened to default her & possibly add other penalties including suspensions from other tournaments. So she bowed out after stating that she could have handled things differently. They also put out a nasty (since deleted) tweet saying that other players who did press “understood the assignment.” As others stated above, they went nuclear on a young woman struggling with depression & anxiety.

        And the fact that Serena was bullied & had to fight back in cases is likely part of why Naomi has space to advocate for a decent work environment. Or just to say, “this is harming my health.” It wasn’t right before either, which is why people should demand better.

        I had to step back from a toxic work environment to save my mental health. I’d probably be dead otherwise. They got rid of a couple of toxic people & invited me back. I’ve been able to help other people get access to things to improve their mental health, plus the improved understanding made us better able to be flexible in navigating the pandemic. And our firm is more profitable than ever. It’s not just the right thing to do. Changing abusive work cultures is literally better for business.

  37. L4frimaire says:

    Osaka had to do what she thought was best for her mental health. The worst part was the actual tournament trolling her with the now-deleted assignment tweet and then everyone piling on to her, including professional troll Piers Morgan who never misses an opportunity to attack a woman, especially if she has melanin. Now they look like fools at Roland Garros and their heads officials were refusing to take questions from the media. Interesting how this furor really erupted after news of Osaka’s very high earnings were published. It certainly was a week to attack prominent black women, with Simone Biles, Meghan ( as usual), VP Harris and Osaka. Also disgusting and cynical how the press is now trying to use Serena as a shining example against Osaka, when they usually try to paint Williams as the aggressive one and pit her against younger players in the press, specifically Osaka. As other have mentioned, Williams stayed away from Indian Wells for 14 years because of her poor treatment there, so she had to protect her mental health as well and she’s been treated abominably by the press and tennis establishment. It’s a sh*t show and as others have pointed out, the men in the tournament get a pass on their BS, whether it’s domestic violence, Covid super spreader tournaments, anti-vaxx conspiracies, or trying to undercut the tennis organization with a proposed new all-male league to make more money. These people are full of it. The amount of vitriol aimed at her was unprecedented and frankly impeded her ability to play and be focused. Hope she gets the help and support she needs from those who genuinely care for her.

    • Anna says:

      All. Of. This. @L4frimaire

      “Interesting how this furor really erupted after news of Osaka’s very high earnings were published. It certainly was a week to attack prominent black women, with Simone Biles, Meghan ( as usual), VP Harris and Osaka. Also disgusting and cynical how the press is now trying to use Serena as a shining example against Osaka, when they usually try to paint Williams as the aggressive one and pit her against younger players in the press…”

  38. Oh-Dear says:

    What isn’t being talked about enough is the need for the press pools to participate in inter-cultural awareness for interviews and for them to recognize/reflect on their role. If the athlete is there to compete to win, how do reporters contribute productively to that outcome. It should be symbiotic, not problematic. Reporters don’t seem to have a sense of what it is to be an elite athlete, their purpose- is it to harass? To bring awareness to the sport? Gain insight into an elite athletes strategies? If it is some level of harassment, athletes should be able to opt out. If it is awareness to the sport or gain insight into the strategies, they need better questions and relationships with athletes which obviously comes from trust.
    The media as a whole is a problematic, predatory system of control whose purpose is to make profit for mostly white men. I don’t blame athletes who are targeted and harassed from opting out and using different platforms to engage with the public.

  39. K says:

    This is what happens when a woman dares to say no. F the press.

    • Thirtynine says:

      Agreed. Good for Naomi. I love that she walked rather than let herself be abused and threatened into caving. She made her choice in her own best interests and was willing to wear the consequences. She has my absolute support.

  40. Sof says:

    There should exist a “mental health card” or something similar for players to use, say, a couple of times a year. Plus, some journalists are so unprofessional to the point where they don’t even bother to know the name of the players! People laugh whenever Zverev gets called Stephanos and vice versa, I think it’s plain rude. And don’t get me started on the sexism and racism.
    That being said, have any of you seen any tennis “fancam”, instagram account, or youtube video? With a few exceptions, most images come from awkward/funny moments during post match interviews.
    Both sides have a point, obviously, but there should be a change.

  41. Lady Digby says:

    Piers Morgan in his mail online column called Naomi a brat and referenced the Meghan and Harry playbook. When challenged on twitter posted a pic of him stood next to Serena Williams. Wonder what MsWilliams thinks of PM lengthy campaign trashing her BF?

  42. VS says:

    There are fines if you don’t do them…why didn’t RG stop at just asking Naomi to pay fines? they know she is a draw and a superstar in Tennis…her saying NO could have prompted others to start saying No as well….that’s why they came so hard on her but I am so glad she cut that BS down