Naomi Osaka stated that she isn’t going to speak to reporters at this 12 months’s French Open. She implied that press conferences had been damaging to psychological well being, and accepts that she’ll be fined, as is normal for gamers skipping post-match interviews. If that is the primary you’re listening to the information and desire a extra in-depth remedy, right here’s the New York Occasions article.
As my headline makes clear, these press conferences don’t actually matter. Others do, and in a minute, I’ll clarify why.
It’s typically forgotten, however sports activities leagues and groups have a symbiotic relationship with the media. That’s why there are press conferences, in addition to press bins with workstations and free meals. Not solely is media protection free publicity, it’s often higher publicity than the type you possibly can pay for. Certain, the US Open plasters promoting all around the NYC subway in August, however none of that compares to the publicity enhance of day by day tennis protection within the New York Occasions or highlights proven on the night information.
The most important tournaments–reminiscent of Wimbledon, the US Open, and Roland Garros–nonetheless furnish these facilities, they usually proceed to make gamers out there to the press. Inane and repetitive as these interview classes generally are, they supply content material that fills airtime and newspaper columns.
However the greatest occasions needn’t kowtow to the press. The majors are inherently newsworthy, they usually virtually at all times promote each ticket. If the French Open declared that no gamers would give press conferences through the upcoming fortnight, L’Equipe would nonetheless cowl it. The slams have reached the standing of a blue-chip company or a noxious politician–journalists won’t need to cowl them, but it surely’s a part of the job.
Who’s greater than what?
Lots of the destructive reactions to Osaka’s announcement heart on the concept she isn’t greater than the game–or if she is, that she shouldn’t act prefer it. In any case, residing legends reminiscent of Serena Williams and males’s Huge Three have all given a whole lot of press conferences.
For higher or worse, Osaka–and a handful of different gamers–are greater than the game. However extra importantly, the majors are greater than the game.
In a really long-term sense, perhaps Osaka’s place will find yourself mattering. Perhaps it would set a precedent that different gamers will comply with; perhaps the WTA will cave and never situation any fines; perhaps journalists will ask even fewer powerful questions (if that’s attainable). However so far as the 2021 French Open is anxious, whether or not one star participant solutions media queries is irrelevant.
The identical can’t be stated about nearly each different occasion on the calendar. With the attainable exception of Indian Wells and a few marquee tour stops in Europe, tournaments aren’t entrenched within the public consciousness, they usually scuffle anew for sponsors, spectators, and press protection yearly. If Osaka had been the headliner in, say, San Jose this summer time, it could be an enormous blow if she refused to speak to the press.
I think that Osaka is aware of this and can act accordingly. I could possibly be unsuitable: maybe her French Open resolution is a trial balloon, and if the backlash is minor, she’ll by no means do a match press convention once more. However extra probably, she realizes that the stakes aren’t that prime, and media retailers will handle simply wonderful for the subsequent two weeks with out her. Despite the fact that she’s the highest-paid feminine athlete on the earth, the match itself is a much bigger star than she is.