Tennis star Naomi Osaka was fined $15,000 for not participating in the mandatory media interviews at Roland-Garros 2021.
Osaka whose currently the world’s number two player tennis player, in addition to being the highest-paid female athlete, took to social media to inform “everyone” she will not be doing “any press during the Roland Garros.”
The 23-year-old explained in her statement that she’s “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 added that after the match, win or lose, players are “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,” Osaka continued. “I believe that whole situation is kicking a person when they’re down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it.”
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 26, 2021
All four Grand Slam tournament sites released a joint statement regarding the fine and Osaka.
The statement was signed on behalf of Jayne Hrdlicka, the Tennis Australia chair & president; Gilles Moretton, the FFT president; Ian Hewitt, the AELTC chairman; and Mike McNulty, the USTA chairman of the board & president.
“Naomi Osaka today chose not to honour her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct,” the statement said.
In addition to adding, “Roland-Garros teams asked her to reconsider her position and tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site.”
Following the lack of engagement by Naomi Osaka, the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open jointly wrote to her to check on her well-being and offer support, underline their commitment to all athletes’ well-being and suggest dialog on the issues. She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players.
We individually and collectively have significant resources dedicated to player well-being. In order to continue to improve however, we need engagement from the players to understand their perspective and find ways to improve their experiences. Every year we seek to deliver better experiences to our fans, our players and our people, and we have a long and successful track record in achievement on this count.
A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves. These interactions allow both the players and the media to share their perspective and for the players to tell their story. The facilitation of media to a broad array of channels, both traditional and digital, is a major contributor to the development and growth of our sport and the fan base of individual players.
The group added, “The mental health of players competing in our tournaments and on the Tours is of the utmost importance to the Grand Slams.”
Osaka tweeted a somewhat cryptic message following the fine, saying, “anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.”
anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 30, 2021
Osaka is subject to a fine of up to $20,000 for each news conference she skips at Roland Garros, The New York Times reported.
Axios reported that her sister, Mari Osaka, took to Reddit to share some insight onto her sister’s decision.
Mari wrote in the long post, “Tennis players don’t get paid to do press conferences. They only get paid when they win matches.”
“I don’t know what she is going to do in the future when the tournament pushes back and threatens to default her but I fully support my sister’s actions because she’s just trying to do what’s best for her,” Mari continued to write.
She then said:
When I lost one wta match where I had to do a press conference afterwards I broke down in the room unfortunately and then saw headlines after of me, crying. I was embarrassed and it’s forced on players. Some can take it and some struggle with it.
Confirmed with Naomi Osaka’s team that this Reddit post is indeed from her older sister, Mari Osaka. Gives unique insight amid Naomi’s silence.
(Worth noting, probably, that Osaka did not do press after her loss in Rome to Pegula, from what I’ve heard, as she wasn’t requested.) pic.twitter.com/VtYT57bOYS
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 30, 2021
The post was later edited, saying, “I’m sorry Naomi I probably made the situation worse.”
…and now Mari Osaka has removed the statement from her Reddit post and replaced it with this. pic.twitter.com/QtPNJnKUO2
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 30, 2021