It is a sad story, a scary one, and a troubling part of the business.
The media dealing with athletes, athletes perceptions of the media, and mix of mental health and job responsibilities.
Shame on the French Open and the leaders of the other Grand Slam events for threatening to further discipline tennis star Naomi Osaka, a four time Grand Slam champion, who has opted out in France after being fined for refusing to talk to the media, citing depression.
Instead of a heavy hand, the French Open should have extended a helping hand, to let her cope with what she is dealing with. Give her direction, give her room, give her a hall pass, now that she has opened up.
You cannot paint all the media as ‘bad’ just because a select few, or the crazed ones on social media, have mocked her. You have to work hard to understand what she feels, what she is going thru.
The media indeed has a job to do, and asking the tough question is part of the job, especially towards the super stars of the sports we cover.
The athlete does have a responsibility to answer those questions even in the sheltered environment they work within.
There has to be a common ground, and maybe Osaka’s public disclosure will help all find that middle ground. Maybe this discussion will help spread the word that ‘mental health issues’ are okay to talk about.
Depression, Attention Deficit Disorder, Suicidal thoughts are very important things, more important than raising a cup at Center Court of a tennis tourney.
Maybe the next time Osaka talks, it won’t be about groundstrokes or serves, but how one can cope to save the life of someone with mental health issues.
Sports Illustrated takes a closer look at this story:
What Osaka’s French Open Exit Tells Us About Athletes and Media in 2021
5 HOURS AGO
Tennis’s Grand Slam organizers tried to call Naomi Osaka’s bluff, and it probably would have worked if she were actually bluffing. She was not. Osaka chose to withdraw from the French Open rather than submit to postmatch press conferences—a tremendous sacrifice for the No. 2 player in the world.
You might wonder if press conferences are really that taxing for her mental health, but it’s not our question to ask. Osaka knows herself better than we do. If she says this is that important to her, then it is. Trying to intimidate somebody who says they have mental health challenges is not just off-putting; it can be dangerous.
There is a larger conversation to be had here, though, about athletes and media in 2021. As often happens when sensitive stories blow up, some people think they have to line up on one side or the other: You either support Osaka and think press conferences are a stupid waste of time, or you think she should toughen up and do her job. Well, I support Osaka. But press conferences are absolutely not a stupid waste of time. They benefit journalists, sure, but also fans and especially the people in the arena.