Naomi Osaka is back in the National headlines again after she left a press conference in tears before returning.
Osaka said in May ahead of the French Open that she wouldn’t talk to media during the tournament, saying “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.”
Now, following the Olympics, she is competing in the WTA Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati and a question from a reporter from The Cincinnati Enquirer at a press session Monday prompted her to break out in tears.
The reporter says “The question was ‘You’re not especially fond of dealing with the media, especially in this format. You have suggested there are better ways to do it and I’d like to try to explore that.’ My question, I guess, was ‘You also have outside interests beyond tennis that are served by having a platform that the media presents to you.’ My question is ‘How do you think you might be best able to balance the two?’”
Osaka responds “I think for me, this is something that I feel, I can’t really speak for everybody, I can only speak for myself. But ever since I was younger, I’ve had a lot of media interest on me, and I think it’s because of my background [Osaka is of Japanese-Haitian heritage] as well as how I play. In the first place, I’m a tennis player, that’s why a lot of people are interested in me. I would say in that regard I’m quite different from a lot of people, and I can’t really…there are some things that I tweet or some things that I say that kind of create a lot of news articles and things like that. And I know that because I’ve won a couple Grand Slams and gotten to do a lot of press conferences, these things happen. But I would also say I’m not really sure how to balance the two, I’m figuring it out as you are, I would say.”
That’s when the break down starts to happen and the moderator calls for a break.
After the press conference, Osaka’s agent Stuart Duguid condemned that line of questioning in a statement to Reuters’ Rory Carroll and Amy Tennery:
“The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now,” said Duguid.
“Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior,” he said.
“And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off court success to the media is a myth – don’t be so self-indulgent.”