Jun 7, 2021
Naomi Osaka, the 23-year-old women’s tennis player ranked 2nd in her sport, declined to participate in grueling post-match press conferences during the French Open. She explained that she needed to protect her mental health, but said she would pay contractual fines.
The leaders of the International Tennis Federation were aghast! Press conferences are money makers. Advertising is sold and displayed behind the athletes.
Instead of offering support to this amazing athlete who produces immense wealth for the sport and the entertainment industry in general, they threatened her with suspension. Naomi Osaka then did something women are taught NOT to do—she prioritized taking good care of herself.
She stated she would withdraw from the tournament, explaining she has “suffered long bouts of depression.” She explained she would “take some time away from the court,” but promised to later “discuss ways we can make things better for the players.”
Osaka, who is of Japanese and Haitian ancestry, supported nationwide protests last year against racism. During the U.S. Open, she wore face masks that said the names of victims of police and vigilante brutality.
In stepping away from the game, Osaka showed support for athletes. Press conferences, held AFTER grueling tournaments, are the equivalent of the boss forcing workers to stay an extra hour at the end of an exhausting work day.
As writer Cate Young put it in an opinion piece about Osaka, “Just as so many other workers have rethought—in a global pandemic—how work should operate, Osaka and her contemporaries are questioning the very frameworks under which they labor.”
Naomi Osaka put the value of human life, her own life, ahead of the financial interests that make money off professional sports. Fantastic!