Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez extended her support to the tennis star Naomi Osaka following her decision to withdraw from the French Open due to concerns around press conferences and mental health.
“Proud of you, @naomiosaka,” tweeted Ms Ocasio-Cortez in support of Osaka’s decision to drop out of the tournament rather than bow to pressure from organisers to take part in media events.
Osaka also received support from vice president Kamala Harris’s niece, Meena Harris, as well as fellow prominent athletes following her decision on Monday.
Meanwhile, the French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton in a statement on Monday said that he was “sorry and sad” about what had happened with Osaka, reiterating the commitment of the Grand Slam organisers towards the wellbeing of players.
The 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam winner was fined $15,000 and threatened with harsher sanctions to follow for skipping the mandatory obligation of interacting with the media before and after matches.
Mr Moretton, who had earlier derided Osaka’s decision to swerve press conferences as a “phenomenal error”, said: “We are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka. The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland Garros is unfortunate,” as he wished her “the best and the quickest possible recovery”.
“As all the Grand Slams, the WTA, the ATP, and the ITF, we remain very committed to all athletes’ wellbeing and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our tournament, including with the media, like we have always strived to do.”
The world No 2 won her opening match against Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday but her decision to boycott the press conferences was a much bigger talking point throughout the tournament.
Reacting strongly to Osaka’s move, the Grand Slams had released a joint statement on Sunday as they threatened her with potential disqualification and a ban from future tournaments for not obliging with media duties.
Elaborating on her struggles with depression and anxiety, Osaka in a Twitter post announced her decision to withdraw from the tournament. “I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my wellbeing is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” she wrote.
Supporting her decision, Meena Harris said: “So proud of Naomi Osaka and also so angry it happened this way.”
So proud of Naomi Osaka and also so angry it happened this way
— Meena Harris (@meena) May 31, 2021
American basketball player Stephen Curry wrote: “You shouldn’t ever have to make a decision like this - but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be don’t protect their own. Major respect @naomiosaka.”
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) May 31, 2021
“It’s so sad that we are in a time that when a young person tells you they need help or a break, people respond with anger and a lack of support! I stand with you @naomiosaka. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health,” wrote former professional basketball player Lisa Leslie.
It’s so sad that we are in a time that when a young person tells you they need help or a break, people respond with anger and a lack of support! I stand with you @naomiosaka Your mental health is just as important as your physical health ❤️🙏🏾
— Lisa Leslie (@LisaLeslie) May 31, 2021
Twitter users also raised concerns around the turn of events, suggesting that Osaka was subjected to particularly harsh treatment because of race.
Lebron James was told to 'shut up and dribble'.
Kaepernick was told to 'shut up and stand up'.
Now #NaomiOsaka is being told to 'shut up about her mental health'.
We've seen this playbook. It's been happening for years. A constant attempt to silence black voices.
— Francis Maxwell (@francismmaxwell) June 1, 2021
“Lebron James was told to 'shut up and dribble'. Kaepernick was told to 'shut up and stand up'. Now #NaomiOsaka is being told to 'shut up about her mental health'. We've seen this playbook. It's been happening for years. A constant attempt to silence black voices,” wrote a user.