Tennis star Naomi Osaka was fined $15,000 Sunday for refusing to attend a post-match press conference during the French Open and has been warned that she will face further consequences if she continues to do so.
While Osaka had a successful start to the tournament, she said previously that she would skip mandatory post-match media briefings during the French Open. Under the rules, Osaka must still meet with the media for post-match news conferences upon request, reports AP.
In a Wednesday statement on Twitter, Osaka referred to the obligatory news conferences as opportunities for “kicking a person while they’re down,” and suggested they were detrimental toward 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 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. I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they’re down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it,” said Osaka.
“Me not doing press is nothing personal to the tournament and a couple journalists have interviewed me since I was young so I have a friendly relationship with most of them. However, if the organizations think that they can just keep saying, ‘do press or you’re gonna be fined,’ and continue to ignore the mental health of athletes that are the centerpiece of their cooperation then I just gotta laugh,” she continued.
The Grand Slam tournament heads released a statement Sunday saying they tried unsuccessfully to talk to Osaka to get her to reconsider her stance and to check in on her mental health. The four heads also warned that Osaka could later face stiffer consequences, including risk of tournament default.
“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. These interactions allow both the players and the media to share their perspective and for the players to tell their story. The facilitation of media to a broad array of channels, both traditional and digital, is a major contributor to the development and growth of our sport and the fan base of individual players,” said the tournament heads in a statement.
“We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement. As a sport there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honour their commitments,” they continued.