Naomi Osaka Withdraws From the French Open After Being Fined for Her Media Boycott

On Monday, May 31, Naomi Osaka announced that she is officially withdrawing from the French Open to focus on her mental health.

By Alyssa Morin May 31, 2021 8:33 PMTags
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Naomi Osaka is putting her mental health first.

On Monday, May 31, the professional tennis player announced that she's officially withdrawing from the French Open. The 23-year-old athlete's decision comes just one day after she was fined $15,000 for not speaking to the media following her straight-set victory on Sunday, May 30.

"Hey everyone, this isn't a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago," Naomi began her Instagram statement. "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," she continued. "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 US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that."

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The tennis champion, who is currently ranked as the No. 2 player in the world, took a moment to further explain her media boycott

"Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt) I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world's media," she shared, adding, "So here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences. I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that."

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Additionally, Naomi noted that she reached out to the tournament to privately apologize.

"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 the ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans," she concluded. "Anyways hope you are all doing well and staying safe, love you guys I'll see you when I see you."

On Wednesday, May 26, Naomi first announced she wouldn't do press at the tournament to prioritize her mental health.

"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," she previously wrote on social media. "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."

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Naomi explained she was aware of being fined if she didn't participate in press conferences. But as she put it, "I hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity."

On Sunday, the Grand Slam tournaments issued a joint press release stating that Naomi was fined for refusing the mandatory press conference following her victory against Patricia Maria Tig.

"Naomi Osaka today chose not to honour her contractual media obligations," the statement read in part. "The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct."

"Following the lack of engagement by Naomi Osaka, the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open jointly wrote to her to check on her well-being and offer support, underline their commitment to all athletes' well-being and suggest dialog on the issue," the statement continued. "She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players."

At this time, the Grand Slam tournaments have yet to publicly comment on Naomi's withdrawal.

Following Naomi's announcement, celebrities have offered their support on social media. 

Ava DuVernay wrote on Twitter, "Take care of yourself like Naomi Osaka."

"Let's boycott the French open. Naomi is the most exciting player anyway. Imagine punishing someone for having anxiety... in 2021," Jameela Jamil shared.

"Shouldn't one's athletic ability be the focus and what's most important? @naomiosaka was clearly ready to play & had enough awareness of self to recognize her mental health challenges around the media. Mental health should be one's first consideration. I'm proud of her," Jada Pinkett-Smith added. "Love to all challenged in this way. It's okay to take care of you first ... at all costs. Love."