Naomi Osaka’s return to taking questions in a press conference setting did not go well.
On Monday, Osaka participated in her first press conference since withdrawing from the French Open, at the time citing her “mental health” as the reason. Before her decision to withdraw from the tournament, Osaka was fined $15,000 for skipping press conferences.
Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty asked Osaka on Monday how she balances her media obligations considering her platform.
“You’re not crazy about dealing with us, especially in this format, yet you have a lot of outside interests that are served by having a media platform,” Daugherty asked. “I guess my question is, how do you balance the two and also do you have anything you’d like to share with us about what you did say to Simone Biles?”
Osaka asked Daugherty what he meant by saying she ”wasn’t crazy about dealing” with the media.
“Well, you’ve said you don’t especially like the news conference format, yet that seems to be obviously the most widely used means of communicating to the media and through the media to the public,” Daugherty responded.
The moderator attempted to move on to the next question before Osaka said that she was “actually very interested in that point of view” and did her best to answer the question.
“I can only speak for myself,” she said. “But ever since I was younger I have had a lot of media interest on me, and I think it’s because of my background, as well as how I play, because in the first place I’m a tennis player. That’s why a lot of people are interested in me, so I would say in that regards I am quite different to a lot of people. And I can’t really help that there are some things that I tweet or some things that I say that kind of create a lot of news articles or things like that.”
“I would also say, I’m not really sure how to balance it. I’m figuring it out at the same time you are.”
After answering, Osaka looked up to the ceiling and began wiping tears away from her eyes. She was asked a few tennis-related questions by a different reporter as she attempted to compose herself. Osaka then left the press conference, returning five minutes later to answer additional questions.
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) August 16, 2021
After the press conference, Osaka’s agent — Stuart Duguid — lashed out the Cincinnati Enquirer reporter, calling his behavior “appalling.”
“The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now,” Duguid said via The New York Times’ Ben Rothenberg. “Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior.”
“And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off-court success to the media is a myth — don’t be so self-indulgent.”
The statement was of course simply an opinion, but Daugherty’s question seemed more than appropriate — as did his tone — considering Osaka’s past few months away from the game of tennis.
Osaka has been at the center of the mental health conversation surrounding athletes who are consistently in the public eye ever since her withdrawal from the French Open. After her withdrawal, Osaka put out a statement explaining why she chose to not participate in the tournament:
“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 on 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,” Osaka said. “More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.”
Osaka is currently the number two ranked women’s tennis player in the world behind Ashleigh Barty of Australia.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to email@example.com.
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