Naomi Osaka Withdraws From French Open Amid Media Boycott Controversy

Updated: Nike told FN: “Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience.”

What We Originally Reported: 

Naomi Osaka is withdrawing from the 2021 French Open.

The No. 2-ranked women’s singles tennis star took to Instagram to announce her decision this afternoon. The news comes after Osaka faced a $15,000 fine for deciding to skip a press conference after her first-round match on Sunday. Last week, she announced her decision not to speak to media during the tournament, and organizers yesterday intimated they could expel her from play.

Osaka proceeded to share her side of the story on social media today, writing a two-slide explanation of her decision to withdraw from the ongoing tournament.

“Hey everyone, this isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posed a few days ago. I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going in Paris. I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” wrote Osaka in her post.

“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that,” continued the athlete. “Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.”

“I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but 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,” concluded Osaka.

The news today follows the four Grand Slam championships’ joint decision to fine Osaka based on her lack of participation in a press conference.

Osaka previously shared a Tweet on May 26 explaining why she chose to skip the media event, attributing the decision to the protection of her mental health and ended the announcement by saying “I hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity.”

The French Open’s official Twitter, Roland-Garros, then responded to Osaka’s choice with their own statement on May 30 explaining the decision to in fact fine the four-time Grand Slam winner.

“Following the lack of engagement by Naomi Osaka, the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open jointly wrote to her to check on her well-being and offer support, underline their commitment to all athletes’ well-being and suggest dialog on the issues. She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players,” wrote the four Grand Slam championships in a jointly released statement on May 30.

“Naomi Osaka today chose not to honor her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct,” continued the release.

Beyond her multiple championships, Naomi Osaka has partnered with Nike for a selection of apparel and footwear collections as well as to launch Play Academy with Naomi Osaka — a girls-only sports program in partnership with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good. The program aims to level the playing field by changing the game for girls, according to Osaka in an op-ed.

At just 23 years old, Osaka is also officially the highest-paid athlete in the world with 2020 earnings of $55 million, according to Sportico. Osaka also recently joined Louis Vuitton as a house ambassador for the French brand, starring in the brand’s spring ’21 campaign.

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