Naomi Osaka has been fined $15,000 after she did not appear at a press conference at the French Open, the tournament organization announced Sunday. The four-time Grand Slam winner has also been warned she could be expelled from the French Open if she continues to ignore her media obligations.
Osaka announced last Wednesday that she would not do mandatory media interviews at the French Open as she sees those interviews as harmful to the mental health of athletes. “We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m not just going to subject myself to people that doubt me,” she wrote on social media.
The tennis star said she hoped any fines she would be forced to pay would go to mental health charities.
True to her word, Osaka on Sunday did not conduct a post-match press conference after her first-round win against Romanian Patricia Maria Tig. She however participated in the traditional on-court interview right after the match.
Her decision did not go down well with officials. “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,” the four Grand Slam tournaments said in a joint statement.
The Grand Slam organizations, which include Tennis Australia, the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) and the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA), said Sunday that they had tried unsuccessfully to speak with Osaka “to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site.”
“She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players,” the tournament organizations said, adding that, “A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves.”
The groups said they have informed Osaka that if she continues to refuse to speak to the media during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences. “As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament (Code of Conduct article III T.) and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions (Code of Conduct article IV A.3.).”
The statement by the Grand Slam organizations has drawn mixed reactions from social media users. “They really don’t care about anyone mental health and it shows,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Simone Biles is penalized for doing a move nobody else can do, Caster Semenya is banned for her biology, Naomi Osaka gets fined & threatened for not talking to press, Kyrie continues to endure fan violence & NFL said Black players have “lower levels of cognitive functioning,” a fan said on Twitter.
“It’s the rules bro. She said she wants them to donate the fine money to charity. so it’s for a good cause,” another wrote.
“Naomi Osaki’s use of mental health, legitimate to me considering the way many journalists in GS pressers get down, could be seen as a legitimate reason should she appeal after a default. Also, GS tournaments would need to show how these after match conferences benefit the sport,” a user wrote.
“No one Is bigger than the sport. Unfortunately the Osaka ego has been inflating too much recently. RG Need to make an example of her and disqualify her if she wins & fails to do press after her second round match. She needs to be brought down to earth and set a better example.”
“Ha ha ha to all the people that think owners/associations cares about their players. Athletes are just a commodity to them. At the end of the day it is a mutual relationship but nothing more,” another wrote.
“But it’s the organisers of the tournaments that set the rules, the athletes can decide whether to enter or not. Why enter & then complain?” one asked.
“Don’t ever force the young girl against her will, don’t let her have mental and psychological issues. Respect her opinion and freedom, respect her right and don’t let her develop irregularity mental break down,” another shared.
Osaka, who was recently named as the world’s highest-paid woman athlete for the second year in a row, has been in a different league when it comes to tennis. She has ventured into fashion, skincare, soccer, you name it. We are just a month into the second quarter and the world cannot keep up with the Haitian-Japanese and her initiatives to make the world a more inclusive one for everyone.
Following news that she has been fined, the 23-year-old tennis player took to Twitter on Sunday evening. She wrote: “anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.”