Naomi Osaka shocked the sports world when she withdrew from the French Open to take care of her mental health.
On the one hand, fans saluted her for her choice, but critics had their opinions and couldn’t understand. Naomi addressed people who may have been confused about her decision in a letter to Time.
Here are five things we learned:
One of Naomi’s main issues was having to talk to the media after games. She was even fined $15k before withdrawing from the French Open because she didn’t speak to news outlets. Despite her actions, Naomi doesn’t “hate” the media. She doesn’t mind it. She doesn’t like it all the time. She said,
“I’ll say it again for those at the back: I love the press; I do not love all press conferences.” However, she went on to say that the format of it is outdated. Naomi said, “I believe that we can make it better, more interesting, and more enjoyable for each side. Less subject vs. object; more peer to peer.”
Naomi stands by her decision and doesn’t regret anything. She wants athletes to take time for their mental health and not be judged about it. In the essay, she said,
“I communicated that I wanted to skip press conferences at Roland Garros to exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health. I stand by that. Athletes are humans. Tennis is our privileged profession, and of course, there are commitments off the court that coincide. But I can’t imagine another profession where a consistent attendance record (I have missed one press conference in my seven years on tour) would be so harshly scrutinized.” She suggested that athletes should be given time to take care of their mental health without facing any criticism.
“Michelle Obama, Michael Phelps, Steph Curry, Novak Djokovic, Meghan Markle, to name a few. Furthermore, I am eternally grateful to all my partners. Although I am not surprised as I purposefully chose brand partners that are liberal, empathetic, and progressive, I am still tremendously thankful.”
Naomi is becoming a “new face” for advocating mental health rights for athletes. Although she’s passionate about what she believes, she never wanted to be in the spotlight and is an introvert. She said,
“Believe it or not, I am naturally introverted and do not court the spotlight. I always try to push myself to speak up for what I believe to be right, but that often comes at the cost of great anxiety. I feel uncomfortable being the spokesperson or face of athlete mental health as it’s still so new to me, and I don’t have all the answers. I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s OK not to be OK, and it’s OK to talk about it. Some people can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel.”
Even though she’s taking a break right now, Naomi is super excited to play in the Tokyo Olympics.
“I could not be more excited to play in Tokyo. An Olympic Games itself is special, but to have the opportunity to play in front of Japanese fans is a dream come true. I hope I can make them proud.”