Naomi Osaka is wrong.
Her boycott of the media at the French Open is misguided. Worse, it’s downright unprofessional.
If the tennis superstar is seriously dealing with a mental health issue — as she announced on social media before the tournament — she should have bowed out gracefully from the event and taken time for herself.
Fans would have been disappointed, but understood.
But to claim she can do everything else, but just can’t talk to the media is bogus.
Bravo to the four Grand Slam tournaments who issued Osaka both a fine and a stern warning for her behavior.
The Grand Slam tournaments also said that if she continues to not talk to the media she could be subject to escalating punishment, including disqualification.
Here’s a part from the joint statement.
“Naomi Osaka today chose not to honour her contractual media obligations,” the statement read. “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 also said this: “As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament (Code of Conduct article III T.) and the trigger of substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions (Code of Conduct article IV A.3.”
For sure, tennis’ powers-that-be mean business and aren’t taking this situation lightly.
Many fans will side with Osaka — who issued a warning before the event on social media that she wouldn’t talk to the press — and say that she shouldn’t be forced to talk to the media if she doesn’t feel like it. But like Osaka, they just don’t get it.
Osaka delivered a lame tweet in her defense on Sunday after her match. It read: “anger is a lack of understanding. Change makes people uncomfortable.”
Osaka simply has this all twisted. Talking to the media and selling the game to fans is part of her job. It’s what players sign up for before cashing all those million-dollar checks from playing professional tennis.
The attack on the media is so wrong and dumb. The media is there for the fans. Most media members are just trying to do a job. It’s not about us. It’s never been. When you blow off the media, you’re telling fans they don’t matter and don’t count. Media members get paid whether they talk to the star players or not.
What can change, and the people who run the events understand, is that media outlets will stop covering events if they can’t get access to the stars involved.
It wouldn’t be good for the sport.
Osaka’s act isn’t new and has been tried by many athletes over the years, including stars as big, and bigger, than her.
They have tried to push the envelope with this and all eventually get a dose of reality that this aspect of their obligations is non-negotiable.
The great Michael Jordan once blew off media day at the All-Star Game. He was fined and reprimanded. It never happened again. This season, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving tried pulling the same stunt, by refusing to speak to reporters who cover his team. The league jumped in and imposed fines. That nonsense stopped.
Here’s the other part where athletes just don’t get it. Working with the media is a two-way street. These same athletes who dislike the media will invite them to trumpet their good deeds in the community.
Some also want the media to listen and deliver their message, if it’s about them fighting for social justice or against police brutality.
Osaka was front and center last year when people took to the streets in protest. The media wrote about her support for Black Lives Matter last June. Google it. But now she has no use for those same people. Fundamentally, it’s wrong.
Dealing with the media is real simple. Answer a few questions. If there are questions you don’t care to answer, you say “no comment.”
After five or 10 minutes, you can bow out and go on about your business.
Sorry Osaka, not allowing sports journalists to simply do their job is unprofessional. And it’s wrong.