Elite Athlete Skipping Media Obligations

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Naomi Osaka one of the top ranked tennis players has declared that she is skipping media obligations at the French Open this year because she thinks it’s detrimental to her mental health.

I have my own opinions but I wondered what you all thought about it. There are four major tennis tournaments a year, each last two weeks for the players that make the finals. Osaka has been fined $15,000 for missing the first press conference and has been threatened with more severe consequences if she continues to refuse.

What would you think if an Olympic gold medal contender refused to talk to the press? What do you think the consequences (if any ) should be for skipping it?
At us classic it seemed like athletes did media via zoom. That would seem acceptable—though not ideal at the Olympics. If athletes test positive for COVID their competition is done so too much in-person media is a risk.

I’m not sure about skipping media for mental health unless the journalists have been harassing Naomi. Is she trying to maintain a competitive mental space during the tournament?
I don’t know anything about tennis interviews and whether the athletes are hounded by the media, etc. I’d believe that the questions she is asked are rude/intrusive/aggressive. However, that’s not what she says. Instead, she says the questions are repetitive and being asked by people who doubt her. To be honest neither of those sound like major issues to me; they are situations faced by everyone in every profession. Maybe the conferences are misrepresented and worse than her statement makes them sound. $15 000 is a lot of money to throw away on one unpleasant afternoon!
I’ve seen a few tennis press conferences and they are stupid snoozers. She ain’t wrong about repetitive questions (“My opponent played great and I’ll just have to try to step up my game next time.” “My opponent played great and I feel lucky to have beaten him.” Yawn.) and I think they generally have to have a news conference after each damn match. There are only so many times you can answer the same questions and be polite. Honestly, even for stuff like gymnastics, they should have five questions picked at random, let the athlete answer them and then write their article from that. They aren’t going to get any world breaking quotes from a presser unless they hound the athlete into saying something inappropriate. And there are only so many questions a woman wants to answer about her fashion choices.

(I’ve also had a bias against after-action interviews ever since Andrea “interviewed” the US gymnastics after the Beijing team competition. Since she seemed like her goal was to try to make them cry and not gather any new information, I assume most reporters are shitty like that)
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Let’s see if she wins Roland Garros - will she ditch the pressers then. If she doesn’t and shows up, if I were the press I’d just sit there and scroll social media on my phone.
Or even worse - interviewing Aly about “ITS AMAZING THAT YOU GOT INTO THE AA” when Jordan was literally 4 feet behind her in tears.
She is a professional tennis player. If I refused to do parts of my job that I disliked, I would certainly be reprimanded and told to pull up my socks. Facing the media is part of her job and she should just suck it up and do it.

I don’t think this is comparable to gymnasts. The vast majority are amateur athletes, with a considerable chunk underage. They don’t owe the media anything, unless they have entered into an agreement with USAG or sponsors.
She is a professional tennis player. If I refused to do parts of my job that I disliked, I would certainly be reprimanded and told to pull up my socks. Facing the media is part of her job and she should just suck it up and do it.
True, to a point. She should work with her union (they do have a tennis player’s union, don’t they?) to either have the media moments reduced in frequency or length. Or limit the types of questions being asked. I’m not in her mind so I don’t know what it is about the media junket that is harming her mental health, but it is something that should be addressed and accommodations made, if possible.
I have sympathy for her. She was willing to talk on the court. Just not in the press room.

And she’s a tennis player. Let her play tennis.
I don’t understand how one could read Osaka’s statement and have this response. She is so vulnerable and eloquent about her mental state. I am sure Roland Garos wishes they could go back and handle it differently. Because they would much rather have the 2nd best tennis player in the world actually playing in matches and not doing the media room than gone completely.
Osaka is the highest paid female tennis player in the world right now. She could retire right now on the money she has earned. Major tournaments need her more than she needs them. Will be interesting to see how this develops, but I am glad to see young athletes advocating for themselves and their own mental health.
Thank you for pulling me up on this.

Maybe I have a skewed perspective around mental illness having a long history of mental ill health myself. I spent 6 months in hospital last year and would go days without showering, eating, drinking (except for meds), in the dark. All I did was stare at the walls and cry. Everyone experiences mental illness in different ways, but I am sensitive to the fact that I was in a place that not many people reach despite having depression. My case was fairly extreme and it took a lot to get out. It definitely required substantial time off work. So if Naomi requires time off, fair enough and good on her for recognising when a situation is detrimental to her health in such a way that it is no longer worth sticking around. For me, work is toxic at times. I have an eating disorder thanks to work and trying to work with social anxiety is challenging. If Naomi truly cannot manage speaking with the media, then she needs to be in touch with tournament organisers because initially it seemed she was just saying ‘screw it, I don’t want to’. It seems she has opened herself up in a manner that I think requires a great deal of vulnerability and for that she should be congratulated.

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