‘Utter nonsense’: Top US hosts defend freedom of press questions and insist tennis ace Naomi Osaka is not victim of media bullying
An accusation of bullying raised by Naomi Osaka's agent after she sobbed at a press call has earned a baffled response in the US, with one host warning that the media could be censored into asking stars what they want to discuss.
Top American presenter Steven A Smith and his fellow hugely experienced anchor, Max Kellerman, hailed Osaka's honesty and bravery for dealing with the pressure on her shoulders while confessing that they are perplexed by outraged claims made by her agent.
Stuart Duguid, world number two Osaka's agent, called a reporter's behavior "really appalling" after they posed a seemingly innocuous question about Osaka maintaining a high profile despite not enjoying media attention.
"I'm trying to figure out what the reporter did wrong," pondered NBA expert Smith, speaking on a debate show on ESPN.Also on rt.com American reporter branded a ‘bully’ as Naomi Osaka is reduced to tears in first press conference since French Open (VIDEO)
"For the agent to come out with a statement basically accusing the journalist of bullying her – I'm like, 'What are you talking about?'
"If folks are going to side with that, then essentially, if you are a journalist and that is what we classify as bullying, as a journalist, all you can say is, 'What would you like to talk about?'"
Describing himself as being in exact agreement with Smith, former HBO Boxing pundit Kellerman praised Osaka's likeability but conceded that he was equally confused by the claims.
"He did not seem to be attacking her," said Smith's co-host. "The idea that it was bullying – to me, from what I saw – is utter nonsense.
"It's such nonsense that the agent's statement either betrays a lack of comprehension or an intentionally dishonest point of view.
I think @stephenasmith hit it on the head with the Naomi Osaka press conference. The agent was so off base for saying the Cincinnati Enquirer reporter was bullying Osaka. It was a fair question and he asked it in the most professional and considerate manner.— Jonathan Schaeffer (@J_SchaefferWOI) August 17, 2021
@stephenasmith you're wrong about the Osaka situation. She was on the brink of tears before the woman asked the question. Pay attention after she answers the male she puts her head up to fight off the tears then places her hat over her eye's, was it his fault IDK but it happened— Kenny Smith, Over/Under Academy-Knicks Fix 🗽 (@OUAKnickFanPage) August 17, 2021
"She was interested in the question. The gist of it, the spirit of it was, 'Hey, I understand you don't really like these kinds of press conferences.' He never said [what] the agent said.
"I thought she gave a thoughtful response. It struck a nerve with her, I'm sure, because I'm sure it dredged up... every time she tries to do something good, like sending out a social media message, she deals with backlash and increased scrutiny and increased pressure.
"Whatever it was, it dredged up emotion for her. Nothing there was untoward or out of line."
Smith has applauded Osaka for donating her winnings from her next tournament to earthquake victims in her father's homeland, Haiti.
"That's not being distracted – that's being thoughtful and courageous," Smith remarked.
On first take I was listening to Stephen a smith and max k. talk about Naomi Osaka and I know good and well the reaction would be different if it was the Williams sisters or more so Kevin Durant. You know hell would of broke lose had reporters pressed Durant to tears instead🙄— Jay Davidson (@JoshonKingBlaze) August 18, 2021
Stephen A 🙋🏽♀️ I was outraged today because a reporter made Naomi cry in her press conference. You have been around so many champions & trust me - when Osaka is playing she’s the best out there right now. Please offer her any advice you can. I keep wanting her to throw 🔥 at ‘em— Robin (@Robin_KC_) August 17, 2021
Couldnt AGREE MORE with @stephenasmith and @maxkellerman about @naomiosaka agent...what is he talking abt with Bullying. That was a very fair question the Cincinnati Inquirer reporter asked Naomi. If he can't ask a question like that then what the hell is the job of a journalist— CRANSTON (@CLBURKE_) August 17, 2021
"Really hurts to see all the devastation that’s going on in Haiti, and I feel like we really can’t catch a break," Osaka wrote on her Twitter account.
"I’m about to play a tournament this week and I’ll give all the prize money to relief efforts for Haiti. I know our ancestors' blood is stron. We’ll keep rising.
The 23-year-old's battle with the press continues, however.
"The biggest eye-opener was going to the Olympics and having other athletes come up to me and say they were really glad that I did what I did," she said at the same press conference this week, discussing her withdrawal from the French Open in May upon being threatened with expulsion for refusing to fulfill her media obligations.
"I’m proud of what I did and I think that it was something that needed to be done."Also on rt.com From protests and crashes to diplomatic incidents and Covid, here are some of the Tokyo Olympics’ craziest, most memorable moments