‘Why can’t women protect their peace?’ Row over Osaka’s tennis tantrum rages on as French Open bosses warn star could be expelled
Tennis bosses have fined Naomi Osaka, issued a stern joint statement and warned that further punishments including expulsion from the French Open could be on the way as the spat over the star's rejection of media duties goes on.
In a lengthy joint statement by all four Grand Slams, organizers said they had "tried unsuccessfully" to speak to the second seed in Paris, check on her wellbeing after she claimed she would not speak to the press and ask her to reconsider her position while discussing the "specifics of her issue", which Osaka said had been about protecting her mental health.
The announcement revealed that Osaka, who had admitted that she expected a financial punishment over her rebellion, had been fined $15,000 for a code of conduct violation in the purported absence of a willingness to establish a dialog over the saga.
“We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement,” said the letter, emphasizing what they see as the importance of player engagement to the growth and development of the game.
Long, stern statement from the Grand Slams on Naomi Osaka’s media boycott, which got her a $15,000 and could be considered a major offense with escalating penalties including suspension. They also emphasized their interest in her well-being. #RG21pic.twitter.com/heGaZujhly— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 30, 2021
“As a sport, there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honor their commitments.”
That penalty is tiny to a star who made more money than any other female athlete in history in the last 12 months, but Osaka's place in the tournament and future Grand Slams could be under threat should she continue her action.
Describing "tougher sanctions" and a potential "major offense investigation", the statement said that the world number two could be defaulted from Roland Garros and outlawed from competing.
Reminder: Naomi said her decision was “nothing personal to the tournament,” yet here they are taking it personally. Why can’t women protect their peace IN PEACE?! Why can’t female athletes of color stand up for themselves w/o ridicule?— Analis Bailey (@analisbailey) May 29, 2021
I know I always threaten someone with severe punishment when I have legitimate interest in their well-being.— Bennett Hipp (@BennettHipp) May 30, 2021
In a sharp twist on Saturday, the official French Open Twitter account also posted a swiftly-deleted photo of four players, including all-time great Rafael Nadal, appearing to happily speak to the media, adding: "They understood the assignment."
That escalated the debate and even heralded suggestions of sexism and racism. "Naomi said her decision was 'nothing personal to the tournament'," said one, revisiting an original social media statement by the player in which Osaka pledged she was "just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.”
"Yet here they are taking it personally. Why can’t women protect their peace in peace? Why can’t female athletes of color stand up for themselves without ridicule?"
I think bottom line is if you’re fit enough to compete at highest level of physical/emotional stress then you’re capable of answering some questions after. If you’re really in need of help, step away from the game & go get it. Play and live up to contract language or don’t play.— Mike Diddy (@Nova_Diddy) May 30, 2021
Maybe the solution is that journalists also need to qualify to be in a presser just like an athlete needs to qualify to play in a competition because there are always some seriously dumb or righteous questions asked— pointsintheair (@pointsintheair) May 30, 2021
A fellow supporter implied that the Grand Slam alliance behind the letter had composed their message in bad faith, scorning: "I know I always threaten someone with severe punishment when I have legitimate interest in their wellbeing."
Others were less convinced that press conferences can be as damaging at Osaka seems to find them.
"I think the bottom line is, if you’re fit enough to compete at highest level of physical and emotional stress then you’re capable of answering some questions afterwards," said one.
Could she just show up and reply to every question “I’m just here so I don’t get defaulted”— Stephen (@trolland_garros) May 30, 2021
She can afford the fines and I’m not sure she would see defaulting from a tournament she’s never made the second week in as much of a punishment. She’ll probably speak to the media again in time for the US Open.— Terry Moore (@proxli) May 30, 2021
"If you’re really in need of help, step away from the game and go get it. Play and live up to contract language or don’t play."
Part of Osaka's purported problem is the repetitive nature of questioning she says she receives. "Maybe the solution is that journalists also need to qualify to be in a presser, just like an athlete needs to qualify to play in a competition," argued a sympathizer.
"There are always some seriously dumb or righteous questions asked."
Guess she better fall in line like a good girl.— colleen ramirez (@colleen_ramirez) May 30, 2021
Her media boycott at RG is simply cheating. Like rules don't apply to her. She should not be allowed to continue in the tournament if she persists. I'm sorry. She's a wonderful player & engaging character, but this is not OK— Olivier Weber (@weberolivier) May 30, 2021
A disagreeing reply asked: "Why are they bad press? Because they don't kiss her ass?
"She shouldn't get special treatment by buying her way out of doing press conferences. The poorer players don't have that luxury."
Osaka's high profile means she is more in demand for press attention than most athletes, but that was not enough to make even some of her fans feel the 23-year-old should skip calls.
Well, she made a choice and now she has to deal with the consequences.— FloridaDame (@Fantine21) May 29, 2021
You lost me when you played the gender and race card. It has absolutely nothing to do with either of those. If a top athlete is going to refuse press, something they are obliged to do or receive a fine, people are going to have an opinion on it #RolandGarros— Adora Herveaux (@adoraherveaux) May 30, 2021
"Her media boycott at Roland Garros is simply cheating – like rules don't apply to her," blasted one critic.
"She should not be allowed to continue in the tournament if she persists. I'm sorry. She's a wonderful player and engaging character, but this is not OK."
Osaka beat Patricia Tig in straight sets in her first-round match on Sunday, advancing to take on another Romanian, Ana Bogdan, on Wednesday.Also on rt.com Naomi Osaka’s refusal to take questions from the press is down to her arrogance, not her mental health issues