Naomi Osaka grabbed the media’s attention this week by refusing to meet with the media. Specifically, after being fined by the organizers of the French Open for refusing to meet with the media, Osaka decided to withdraw from the tournament.
For those who don’t follow tennis, Naomi Osaka is currently ranked number two in the world in women’s tennis and is a constant favorite to win each of the major tennis grand slams. She has also grown into an activist in recent years. And all this despite being someone who lives with anxiety and bouts of depression. Indeed, her refusal to meet with the media was because of the social anxiety she feels addressing the world media. As someone who gets social anxiety even in a group of 10-12 friends of mine, I am in awe of her ability to rise above that anxiety and meet with the media.
Nevertheless, it got to the point in this tournament where she decided for the sake of her mental health to skip the media time. And after being fined and threatened regarding future grand slams, the tennis star decided to withdraw from the tournament altogether. Since doing so she has drawn support from other tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, Coco Gauff, NBA star Damien Lillard, as well as support from Nike.
And the messages behind this story are so incredibly important that I want to highlight them here.
- Even incredibly successful people at the top of their craft can and do experience mental health struggles. There is no shame in this reality;
- Pro-athletes can be treated really awfully, particularly by the media; and
- Most importantly, it is absolutely alright to prioritize your mental health above your career.
Naomi’s grand stroke at this most recent grand slam highlights all of these points. And as an introverted activist, she demonstrated the importance of mental health through her actions.
Like those who have already offered their respect and support, I can hope that Naomi Osaka will soon be able to be back on the court, hopefully with more respect for her mental health from the professional sports media.