Senses & Sensibility: Osaka vs. The French Open

“the shift is about to get real”…

The tennis world has been all a spin, because Naomi Osaka decided she was not there for the fuckery from the press. Osaka didn’t want to spend time talking to people who doubt her for the sake of her mental health. I say bravo. Good for her. Why should anyone stand in front of those who want to peel layers off of their self confidence?

The French Open came back with a $15,000 fine. It was their way of taking off their belt to give some discipline. Considering what Osaka makes in a month, the amount was probably like $1 to her. Money aside, the most important thing is that she wanted to play. She simply wanted no part of talking to the press, which is something the players are required to do. They even threatened to kick her out of the tournament if she did not grin and bear it with journalists. Due to feeling like all of the mess was getting too much attention, Osaka dropped out of the French Open.

While Osaka had huge support from fans and other athletes, it was very interesting to see who thought she should toughen up and talk to the press. My most interesting observation was that older white men were extremely opinionated on what Osaka “should do:”. You would have thought that she had left these dudes sitting in a press room all by themselves. Even the French Open had a shady tweet about athletes speaking to the press. They quickly deleted it after people went in on them for picking on someone choosing their mental health.

When I saw that John McEnroe had made a comment about Osaka on his podcast I was ready to cringe, but he surprised me with way more compassion than I expected. Maybe he learned a lesson or two after being dragged by Twitter when he tried to come for Serena. Then came Billie Jean King chiming in with her comments to remind Osaka that it was “her duty to speak to the press”. I get where King was coming from, but when she played years ago, the journalist game was different. There was respect between journalists and players. A lot of that has gone out of the window. These days some journalists don’t even bother to fact check.

I had to remind someone that the French Open has shown passive signs of racism and sexism in the past. Many of us felt like this was a part of what was a play when the French Open tried to discipline Osaka: How could this brown/Asian woman get uppity with them, doesn’t she realize who they are? In a most interesting twist, Roger Federer dropped out of the Open due to feeling like his body was not up for it. When he left the tournament it affected the structure and screwed a player out of position plus the opportunity to make more money while Osaka skipping a press conference affected no one. Federer was practically given hugs and kisses on his way out. Why was the treatment so different?

It’s been said there were no winners in the French Open vs Osaka incident. I think she won, because she chose herself first. Osaka has the power and wealth to do as she wishes for her mindset. May we all take a lesson from her playbook. Even though you may want to be a part of something for your career, if it chips away at your mental health, it isn’t worth it in the long run. It’s important not to lose yourself as you go for your goals and dreams. While we won’t like everything we have to do along the way, preservation of self means you always win.

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