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Game, set, no press.
Naomi Osaka has said that she will not be participating in any news conferences during the French Open in order to protect her mental health.
The tennis star posted the news on social media saying, “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.”
The 23-year-old explained that athletes are “asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.
“I’ve watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well,” she continued. “I believe that whole situation is kicking a person when they’re down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it.”
Osaka went on to explain that she has been threatened with fines for refusing press and is willing to accept them in order to maintain her mental health but has “hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go toward a mental health charity.”
According to ESPN, pro tennis players can be fined up to $20,000 for skipping a news conference at a major tournament, and the official Grand Slam rulebook states that players are mandated to attend post-match media conferences unless they are injured or physically unable to appear.
In her posts, the tennis champion also included a clip of a then-14-year-old Venus Williams getting grilled by a journalist, forcing her father to step in, and a video of running back Marshawn Lynch at an NFL press conference answering every question with the answer, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”
Venus even commented on Osaka’s post, writing, “Girl, do you. Your life is yours to live!” Venus and her sister Serena have been famously outspoken about the importance of mental health and have been fined for missing press conferences in the past.
A study published by the Sport Journal supports that media does impact athletes’ performance.
“That athletic performance efficiency is reduced by distraction,” the study claimed. “It is believed that distractions interfere with an athlete’s ability to focus.”
Osaka, who is the second-ranked women’s player in the world, has been in the spotlight from a young age, with everything from her boyfriend to her appearance being discussed in great detail.
Backing up Osaka’s claims about news conferences, after winning the Australian Open in February she was criticized for an “awkward” interview blunder that received just as much press as her win did.
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