Naomi Osaka's Team Slams Reporter's "Really Appalling Behavior" During News Conference

Naomi Osaka's team is speaking out after the player faced an "aggressively toned question" during a news conference, stating that she will not be bullied.

By Cydney Contreras Aug 16, 2021 10:11 PMTags
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A reporter who participated in Naomi Osaka's latest news conference appears to have reinforced the athlete's decision to limit interactions with the media.

On Monday, Aug. 16, the tennis star spoke with press ahead of her appearance at the Ohio WTA tournament, before stepping away in tears after Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Paul Daugherty asked a "fairly aggressively toned question about how she benefits from a high-media profile but doesn't like talking to media," according to tweets from The New York Times reporter Ben Rothenberg. The sports writer noted, "Osaka tried to engage, but after her answer began crying."

Following the incident, Osaka's agent, Stuart Duguid, released a statement to E! News slamming the reporter who posed the question. "The bully at The Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player / media relations are so fraught right now," Duguid stated. "Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior."

Duguid added, "And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off-court success to the media is a myth—don't be so self-indulgent."

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In a statement to E! News, Beryl Love, Executive Editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, said, "We appreciate the respectful dialogue with Ms. Osaka at the press conference. It was a straightforward question that we feel led to a meaningful exchange. That said, we sincerely regret that our questioning upset her in any way." 

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This was one of the athlete's first news conferences following her withdrawal from French Open and Wimbledon.

At the time of the 2021 French Open, Osaka initially stated that she wouldn't be doing press, citing 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 explained. "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."

As a result, Osaka was fined $15,000 by the Roland-Garros referee, as tennis players are required to participate in news conferences at Grand Slam tournaments. She was additionally warned that if she missed further press conferences, she could be disqualified from future opens.

In response, Osaka simply decided to withdraw from the remainder of the French Open, explaining that her withdrawal was the "best thing" for the other players and her own health.

"I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer," she added. "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."

Days later, a rep for the Olympian announced she would also be skipping Wimbledon. "Naomi won't be playing Wimbledon this year," the statement read. "She is taking some personal time with friends and family."

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The 23-year-old athlete went on to represent Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. And though she was favored to win gold as the No. 2 ranked player worldwide, she exited the Olympics on Tuesday, July 27 after losing to the Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova.

In a post-game news conference, Osaka acknowledged the pressure she faces, saying, "I feel like I should be used to it by now. But at the same time, the scale of everything has been a bit hard because of the break that I took. I am glad I didn't lose in the first round, at least."

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