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Naomi Osaka announces she won’t be doing press during French Open

PARIS, FRANCE May 26. Naomi Osaka of Japan during practice on Court Philippe-Chatrier during a practice match against Ashleigh Barty of Australia in preparation for the 2021 French Open Tennis Tournament at Roland Garros on May 2pm 6th 2021 in Paris, France. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) — Tennis star Naomi Osaka said she won’t be doing any press events during this year’s French Open.

Osaka made the announcement on Wednesday via social media, and cited a lack of care for athletes’ mental health as her reasoning.

“I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” the four-time Grand Slam winner wrote. “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.”

Press conferences are a regular occurrence for athletes in any sport, but they’ve been known to target athletes’ vulnerabilities in a way that can negatively affect their mental health.

“I’ve watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well. I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they’re down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it,” Osaka said.

The 23-year-old said that not doing press is “nothing personal” toward the tournament itself and that she even has a “friendly relationship” with most of the journalists, especially as some of them have interviewed her since she was young.

“However, if the organizations think that they can just keep saying, ‘Do press or you’re gonna be fined’, and continue to ignore the mental health of athletes that are the centerpiece of their cooperation, then I just gotta laugh,” she said.

According to Grand Slam regulations, press is mandatory for all athletes and they can be fined up to $20,000 for missing an appearance.

Osaka acknowledged the incoming fine at the end of her post with a call to action: “Anyways, I hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity.”

In addition to her statement, Osaka also included a clip of an interview with tennis player Venus Williams when she was 14, in which the interviewer repeatedly asked if Williams thought she could beat her opponent. When the reporter asked Williams about her confidence level, her father, Richard Williams, told the reporter to leave his daughter and her confidence alone.

Osaka’s posts have been met with an outpouring of support, from fans to celebrities to fellow athletes.

Williams, who, along with her sister, Serena, also has been fined for missing press commitments, commented on Osaka’s post, “Girl, do you. Your life is yours to live!”

This is not the first time Osaka has used her platform to speak on important issues. Back in March of this year, Osaka spoke out against the anti-Asian violence in the United States. During the 2020 US Open, which she won, Osaka wore black masks with the names of victims of police brutality.

The French Open began on May 24 and will run until June 13.

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