By now, you’ve heard that tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open after being fined $15,000 for refusing to speak to the media.
It marked the first time a major star walked away from a major tournament without an injury—at least one that’s visible.
On the last day of Mental Health Month, Osaka stated the press conferences showed “no regard for athlete[’s] mental health.”
“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,” she wrote on Twitter. “I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”
Osaka’s willingness to be fined rather than participate in news conferences that exacerbate her mental health issues was a request for reasonable accommodation to which tennis’ governing authorities should have agreed.
Instead, not only did the president of the French Tennis Federation not agree, he persuaded the heads of the other three Grand Slams—the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, and the Australian Open—to publicly release the contents of a letter they wrote to Osaka in which they threatened to disqualify her from all four tournaments.
Athletes are human, too and while it may be their job to play, they do not exist solely for our entertainment.
In a given year, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience some type of mental health condition, according to the American Psychiatric Association. And more than half of that population doesn’t get treatment.
Kudos to Osaka for taking care of herself.
When she defeated Serena Williams in 2018 in her first Grand Slam tournament, the crowd booed her, and she was forced to cover her head in humiliation. She even apologized during the trophy ceremony while Williams told the crowd to stop booing and give Osaka credit for a game well played, and won fair and square.
We are all human beings and it is OK to be vulnerable. Let’s push for a society that prioritizes self-care and mental health, not one that ridicules it.
If you or someone you care about is in crisis, seek help immediately.
Call 911. Visit a nearby emergency department or your health care provider’s office. Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Crisis Text Line also provides confidential text access from anywhere in the U.S. to a trained crisis counselor. Text HOME to 741741.