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Citing a lack of concern for athletes’ mental health, tennis star Naomi Osaka of Japan said Thursday she would not be participating in press conferences or speaking to media during the French Open.
“I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health, and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” the No. 2-ranked women’s tennis player posted on social media Wednesday. “We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds, and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.”
She said she had seen “many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room” and said such situations kick a person when they’re down.
Many people expressed support for the four-time major champion’s move, calling it a bold step toward taking mental health seriously. One of those was a fellow tennis great.
“Girl, do you,” commented seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams. “Your life is yours to live!”
The move leaves Osaka subject to fines of $20,000 or more, money that she said she hoped would be donated to a mental health charity, NBC News reported. It’s money that Venus and Serena Williams have also forfeited over the years, skipping news conferences at major tournaments.
However the new president of the French Tennis Federation grand-slammed the notion, calling it damaging not only to tennis but to sports overall, and to the Japanese-Haitian athlete herself.
“I think this is a phenomenal mistake,” Gilles Moretton, president of the French Tennis Federation, told the French sports website Le Equipe. “It’s very detrimental to sport, to tennis, to her probably.”