Naomi Osaka is taking a stand to protect her peace ahead of the French Open tournament. The 23-year-old tennis star, who is the No. 2 player in the world, took to Instagram on Wednesday (May 26) to announce that she wouldn’t be entering the press room because she believes some of the journalists that she and other players are forced to speak to purposely try to stir up doubt and negativity. She’s not standing for it and is willing to accept a fine for opting out.
“I’m writing this to say I’m not going to do any press during Roland Garros. 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,” she wrote on Instagram. “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. 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.”
She went on to say that her decision isn’t personal to the tournament as a whole or to some of the journalists, whom she has a good rapport with, but she feels it’s important to draw a line, saying, “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 their athletes that are the centerpiece of their cooperation [sic] then I just gotta laugh.”
Osaka wrapped up her letter by taking note of the “considerable” fine she has coming for her decision to not participate in the press room. The star has been the highest paid woman in sports for two consecutive years, so it certainly won’t put a dent in her funds.
“Anyways, I hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity,” she wrote.
Osaka shared videos of athletes in uncomfortable interview situations, most notably, a then 14-year-old Venus Williams being asked why she was so confident that she could beat another player and her father, Richard Williams, stepping in to protect her. The star’s decision, and her choice to be open about it follows a similar decision made by NBA player Kyrie Irving’s own willingness to be fined, saying, “I do not talk to Pawns. My attention is worth more,” asking for the fine money to be utilized in marginalized communities.
Their stances, both in May, are especially powerful decisions to make during mental health awareness month and send a message — show the athletes some respect or receive silence.