Coco Gauff bought a racist query on the French Open press convention days earlier than Naomi Osaka withdrew
In announcing that it would not hold a press conference, Osaka had written: "If the organizations think they can keep saying 'press or you will be fined' and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes, they are at the heart of their collaboration, then I just have to laugh. "
The organizers of the French Open had not only fined Osaka for this position – a fine she had accepted – but threatened in a clear escalation that she would be kicked out of the tournament only to make her decide to resign.
At the 2018 US Open, which Osaka referred to in her resignation statement, she defeated Serena Williams in a controversial match in which she was repeatedly booed by a Williams-supporting crowd. After the game, Williams turned to the crowd and said, “I know you took root here and I took root too, but let's make this the best moment we can. … We'll get through this, and let's be positive. Congratulations, Naomi. No more booing. "
Osaka, for its part, said at the time: "I'm so sorry. I know everyone was cheering for her, and I'm sorry it had to end this way. Just want to say thank you for watching the game. Many Thanks."
She added, "It has always been my dream to play Serena in the US Open final so I'm really glad I could do it. I'm really grateful that I was able to play with you. Thank you."
Osaka was 20 years old at the time.
The New York Times' analysis of Osaka's refusal to do press and their final decision to retire was that mental health was an issue, but Osaka was to blame. "Her announcement on social media (that she would not do any press) surprised the organizers of the French Open and the leadership of the sport. That was their first misjudgment, ”wrote Christopher Clarey. "Your next one was inaccessible when these tennis guides were rightly looking for more information."
Clarey's attitude is bursting with the feeling of someone who has had long conversations with his sources among tournament organizers who expressed their sadness that it had to go like the Osaka tournament didn't have a tweet about other top tennis players ridiculed those who “understood the job”. Indeed, Clarey took up the argument of this now-deleted tweet and wrote, “If Osaka is sensitive to questions about their weaknesses on sand, imagine how Pete Sampras felt when he asked about his own mistakes for more than a decade when he tried and failed to win Roland Garros. "
Gosh, I don't know, maybe the pressures a white man will face in the 1990s and a woman of color in 2021 during a pandemic and in a completely changed media environment are two different things. Perhaps different people react differently to the pressures they face and we should all respect them. But no. How dare anyone go through mental health struggles that do not communicate in exactly the forms preferred by the powers that be!
And it's not that Osaka didn't talk about their depression beforehand.
Nowhere does Clarey's article mention Osaka's race or the specific pressures she was subjected to in any racist sport or media. Case in point: Piers Morgan directed his attacks from Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, on Osaka, calling her a "brat" for not daring not too long after storming off the set of his own show to work with him in the media.
And to show exactly why Osaka doesn't want to face the tennis press day in, day out while grappling with depression and the pressures of a Grand Slam tournament, here is the opening of a question rising star Coco Gauff grapples with during a… French Open 2021: "They are often compared to the Williams sisters. Maybe it's because you're black. But I think it's because you're talented and maybe American too. "
While some tennis stars like Billie Jean King got involved in the mutual decisions of Osaka, Serena Williams offered more understanding, saying, "YYou just have to let her handle it how she wants and as best she believes she can. That's the only thing I can say: I think she's doing her best. ”Gauff responded to Osaka's withdrawal by tweeting,“ Stay strong. I admire your vulnerability. "
And the context for reporting and treating Williams, Osaka, and Gauff is important here:
Just a few years ago, Naomi's reticent behavior was used to contrast Serena's "aggression," and now Naomi is being criticized for exactly what she was once extolled for. Misogynor is so flexible in his cruelty. https://t.co/upctCgINJp
– Fiona Applebum Says Block Shaun King @ (@WrittenByHanna) May 31, 2021
Anyone trying to disconnect Osaka's story from this context, from the mental health concerns Osaka has boldly raised about the ongoing racism in sport and the media reporting on it, is part of the problem.