On that day, Naomi Osaka dealt an extraordinary blow. Facing an angry Serena Williams, who insulted the referee in front of an audience in New York and won her case, the young athlete kept her cool and won the US Open. Nerves force 10! Behind that gentle and sympathetic face, one could perceive a stubborn will.
In this feat in September 2018, Naomi Osaka entered the Stadium of Exceptional Athletes. Recognizing the exceptional forum her sporting successes brought her, she boldly set out to defend key issues.
Last fall, en route to her second US Open title, she appeared on court before every game wearing a sanitary mask in the name of a victim of police brutality listed in the US. The message has been powerful under Trump. His support for the Black Lives Matter movement continued.
Unlike other famous athletes, who avoid publicly speaking about social issues, Naomi Osaka has made her commitment an essential part of her career. To the people who criticize her for mixing politics and sports (as if the two weren’t always connected), she’s shown a destructive sense of formula as her front hand.
“First of all, it’s a human rights issue,” she wrote on Twitter. So why do you have more right than me to express yourself? According to this logic, if you work at IKEA, you only have the right to speak [des fauteuils] Grunlid. »
This strong voice could have discouraged companies from joining them, for fear of angering their customers. This is not what happened. Today, his sponsorship revenue is estimated at $50 million annually. She is a star around the world.
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This burgeoning career didn’t stop Naomi Osaka from making a mistake last week. In a statement on social media, she announced her refusal to participate in press conferences during the Roland Garros tournament.
No matter how many times I read his words, it seemed to me that they were not well explained and poorly supported. Basically, she seemed to denounce the fact that sharp questions are asked of an athlete after a setback.
“I have often felt that people do not respect the mental health of athletes, and this is very real every time I watch or attend a press conference. We often sit there, answering questions that have already been asked many times, or questions that raise doubts in our minds. I I refuse to succumb to people who doubt me” (translation adapted from the daily French translation the team).
It is clear that Naomi Osaka has questioned one of the components of professional sports performance, that universe that today contributes to its richness. Yes, journalists often ask specific questions. After all, it’s their job, otherwise they’d be PR. Their articles help enlighten the public, who love to read about sports stars. All this affects the formidable tool of collective entertainment, which is sports.
If all her peers acknowledged Naomi Osaka’s right to her opinion, no one would frankly support her.
Rafael Nadal summed up public opinion in a comment picked up by many media outlets: “I understand that, but on the other hand, in my opinion, without the press, without the people who travel and who write articles about what we do, our achievements in the world, we wouldn’t be the athletes we are today. .”
The controversy reached a new level when Roland Garros imposed a $15,000 fine on Naomi Osaka for failing to meet with reporters after her first-round victory. Grand Slam leaders have also threatened her with more serious penalties – including exclusion from tournaments – if she continues in this trend. Since press meetings are mandatory, a player who escapes from them will gain an unfair advantage over his competitors, they said, while inviting him to discuss the situation with them.
On Twitter, Naomi Osaka gave a layer: “Anger is a lack of understanding. Change makes people uncomfortable.”
The problem with this statement was that Naomi Osaka seemed to be claiming the right, on behalf of all athletes, to force the change she wanted. As if his truth is more important than the truth of others. However, threatening to disqualify such an outstanding athlete was not a monument to skill.
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Later, Naomi Osaka announced her withdrawal from Roland Garros. She explained her decision in another post, which she should have sent since last week.
This time, she spoke about her own reality rather than generalizing from the reality of others to justify her point of view. To her great merit, she also recognized this gap by initially declaring that the “timing” of her first letter was not perfect and that it could have been “clearer”.
She then followed up with this very powerful confession: “The truth is that I have had long periods of depression since the 2018 US Open and it has been very difficult for me to deal with that. She added that she is an ‘introvert’ and that although tennis journalists always treat her well, she has always been very well treated. She feels “waves of anxiety” before meeting her.
It is clear that these interpretations shed a different light on the events of the past few days. Naomi Osaka’s personal case was much more complex than her first position suggested.
Naomi Osaka’s voice is unique in the sports world. His public interventions in favor of social justice align with powerful gestures made by Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson in another era: sport with a social conscience, sport with a desire to improve society, and sport as a lever for change, both through actions. Or words, or a combination of the two.
On the other hand, in this society that we want to be better, the role of journalists is also crucial. Their right to ask people difficult questions in the news, regardless of field of activity, is an essential component of freedom.
Athletes are human like everyone else, with their strengths and weaknesses. Finding inner peace is often a challenge. Let’s hope Naomi Osaka ups that with her usual allure. We hope that journalists will always be able to ask difficult questions while being respectful of the speakers.