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18 Aug, 2021 19:01

‘Utter nonsense’: Top US hosts defend freedom of press questions and insist tennis ace Naomi Osaka is not victim of media bullying

‘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.

"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.

"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."

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