6/1/21: Naomi Osaka, The French Open, And Mental Health

Gonna start by saying, I’m really proud of Naomi for how she’s prioritized her health, what she’s put out there publicly, & how it’s sparking convo. I’m also gonna say, this situation is complicated, w a lot to discuss.

What’s sad to me is: how polarizing this world’s become. You read the media headlines & the personal posts & she’s either Super Woman or “a quitter & a scammer.” And there’s no inbetween. And these polarizing views are why it’s so hard to move the overall convo forward, collectively as a society.

Last Wednesday, Naomi announced, the day before The French Open began, that she would not participate in post match press conferences, to protect her MH. Despite this story combining sports/MH, bc I wasn’t ready to post. There had to be more to the story.

For some context to the sports world: we continue to be BIG supporters of Liz Cambage of the WNBA who came out w an article that there should be a designation on the stat sheet “DNP – MH.” Absolutely, if you can take full days/wks/months off for you physical health, you should be able to take off for your MH. I/we backed Kyrie Irving many times in the same spot.

With Naomi, I shared in Stories, that her situation was complicated. Pro athletes do agree to press/media as PART of their contractual obligations, day of game/events. It’s how fans get to know the sport/players. It’s how their salaries/purses grow.

From the ages of 23-26, I delivered what was called the “Business of Basketball” to NBA players on all teams. The business side is very clear: these athletes make money/grow the sport thru their interactions w fans/ticket buyers/corporate partners/media, etc.

In our office jobs, we sadly don’t get to pick & choose: we want to go to these presentation, but not those meetings…these town hall’s but not those corporate trainings. Even STILL, taking a FULL day off for MH in our offices isn’t a common/acceptable practice yet. So yes, I understand why ppl question someone wanting to pick & choose work day obligations vs taking days off.

All that said, this ALL played out in a GOOD way- w promises to work collaboratively toward a better system.

It played out in a GOOD way, as Darren Rovell aptly put it on Twitter yesterday: bc ppl can now see that multimillionaire athlete can excel on a big stage in front of millions of ppl, & STILL struggle w the social interactions of press conferences. Ricky Williams & doing press interviews w his helmet on, ring a bell?

No, I don’t think Naomi handled this well at first – unilaterally claiming she would take off. According the the back & forth, Roland Garros did reach out to discuss when she made the announcement (to check in & make accommodations). Naomi/her camp didn’t reply. But now, Naomi is taking off to prioritize her MH, & I’ll share the statements from both the 4 Majors & Naomi (next slide), they plan to work together, on changes to media availability that will work better for everyone. We don’t need to take a side here. Improvements can be made for EVERYONE, w/o there being a “loser.”

Naomi: “When the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”

The 4 Major Tour Organizers: “In order to continue to improve however, we need engagement from the players to understand their perspective and find ways to improve their experiences. All Grand Slams remain committed to continually reviewing and discussing opportunities, together with the Tours and the players, to improve every aspect of the player experience, including with the media. But we consider this is only ever achieved through respectful and constructive discussions.”

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