Joaquin Heredia, Sports, The Pawprint
WTA World number 2, Naomi Osaka, announced she would not be speaking to the press after or before her upcoming matches at Roland Garros this year. The Japanese-American cited mental health reasons for why she would not be attending any press conferences in this tournament.
Osaka was met with harsh punishment and criticism by tournament officials for this decision and was fined US$15,000.
Also, other major tournaments sent letters to Osaka, explaining how “She is not bigger than tennis” and how “If [she] does not want to speak to the press, then [she is not welcome] at our tournament.”
In response, Naomi decided to withdraw from Roland Garros, and “take some time away from the court”, despite her being one of the favorites to win the tournament, and having advanced already into the second round.
Osaka apologized for causing such a distraction from her fellow tennis players, and she believes her withdrawal is in the best interest of the tournament. She believes she has to put herself before tennis and allow herself to get better.
Other athletes were outraged at the way tennis officials have treated Naomi Osaka, Stephen Curry included who stated, “You shouldn’t ever have to make a decision like this-but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be don’t protect their own. Major respect.”
This is obviously no way to treat a 4 time Grand Slam Champion, as her tennis is what draws fans to the sport and to the tournament venues. Because of this, talk of disqualification and suspension from future tournaments should absolutely not be on the table.
We are seeing a very similar scenario play out in the NBA right now. NBA Champion, Kyrie Irving, has elected to skip the press conferences that follow every game, and because of it, the player has been fined US$35,000. The NBA would not even consider suspending Irving from the sport, as he brings in the fans. This could support the idea that Gender Equality is being violated here.
Finally, the mental health concerns brought up by Osaka have been completely ignored by officials. Osaka has been open about struggling with her mental health in the past, and journalists have been known to ask personal and triggering questions that have made Osaka’s situation worse. The French Open is known for having harsh critics as well, and it is understandable why Osaka would not want more pressure on herself than she is already feeling.
Then again, tennis players agree to speak to the press in order to spread awareness of the sport and events, and tournament officials would not want to sacrifice this. And to avoid other players from doing it, officials must have harsh consequences.