At solely age 23, Osaka has transcended her sport. So, when a couple of days in the past, she posted a heartfelt message explaining that to protect her psychological well being, she would skip the normal and compulsory post-match press conferences at Roland-Garros — the celebrated match often known as the French Open — it ought to have been applauded by all.
As an alternative, initially, the match officers’ response was abhorrent, insensitive and embarrassing. First, the match trolled her on-line, through their Twitter account. If we’ve condemned Donald Trump for his cyberbullying, certainly, we are able to’t stand for that of Roland-Garros. Then, citing contract obligations, the officers threatened Osaka with greater than the fines she had already mentioned she was prepared and keen to pay. They hinted they’d kick Osaka out of the match if she refused to talk to the press and managed to get the opposite three annual Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon, U.S. Open, Australian Open) to signal on. Oh, pardon. I meant to gang up, as a result of that’s what bullies do.
Displaying a particular model of gall, individuals who have by no means been ranked among the many high gamers on the planet, who’ve by no means been topped highest-paid athlete — as Osaka was final yr, to the tune of US $55 million — those that don’t have the faintest thought what strain she’s coping with, have been telling her that her well-being wasn’t a precedence however press appearances have been.
I’m a long-time tennis fan, and a part of what I like most in regards to the sport is its traditions, like gamers sporting solely white at Wimbledon, and patrons ingesting the signature Honey Deuce cocktail on the U.S. Open. However traditions, at occasions, have to be adjusted.
In her assertion, Osaka painted a transparent image of what she needed to keep away from: leaving a press convention distraught and in tears. Does it occur on a regular basis? No. However what number of gamers want to interrupt down earlier than we give a rattling and overview the best way this typically less-than-glorious train is carried out?
What was inelegantly requested of Osaka is the equal — publish #MeToo consciousness — of forcing her right into a pre-arranged marriage with a person she expressly says she wasn’t comfy round.
Did I hallucinate all of our speak of openness, the campaigns encouraging us to hunt psychological well being assist, the initiatives à la Bell Let’s Speak? As a result of a few of the commentariat, those in refrain with most match officers, those who would have you ever consider Osaka is nothing however a spoiled brat incapable of understanding the kind of contracts she’s been signing for years, make me consider that the current advances we’ve claimed to have made relating to psychological well being are actually only for present.
When basketball celebrity LeBron James grew to become a social justice crusader, right-wing media pundits advised him to close up and dribble, and many people have been rightfully outraged. How is what was accomplished to Osaka any totally different?
In a subsequent assertion, Osaka evoked her bouts with melancholy and withdrew from the French Open, now not eager to be a distraction. A few of her sponsors, like Nike and Sweetgreen, expressed their assist. And magically, Roland-Garros officers softened their tune as a result of the custom they — and different tournaments — appear to be most focused on preserving is just not that of press entry, however fairly that of earning profits at any price. I’d prefer to assume the Nationwide Financial institution Open is totally different, and can prioritize the welfare of gamers over revenue.
Via her father, a part of Naomi Osaka’s heritage is Haitian. And so to her, I can solely tip my hat and say: kouraj! Kenbe la, pa lage.
Martine St-Victor is a communications strategist and media commentator based mostly in Montreal. Instagram and Twitter: martinemontreal