Tennis star Naomi Osaka has decided to prioritize her mental health and withdraw from the French Open. On May 31, Osaka opened up about her decision by stating (opens in new tab) that "the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris."
She continues, "I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that."
pic.twitter.com/LN2ANnoAYDMay 31, 2021
Osaka is referring to her original statement on May 26, where she announced that she won't be participating in any press conferences during the French Open. In the statement, she references the tournament's mandatory rules regarding the press and how it affects athletes' mental health.
"If the organizations think that they can just keep saying, 'do press or you're gonna be fined,' and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centerpiece of their cooperation then I just gotta laugh," she wrote (opens in new tab). "Anyways, I hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity."
❤️ pic.twitter.com/EegFSKnoieMay 26, 2021
Upon the release of Osaka's statements, celebrities, athletes, and politicians have praised the 23-year-old for setting boundaries and leading the way for others who grapple with society's pressure to put your career above your mental health.
We are with you @naomiosaka 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾 #Courage https://t.co/Zo840pPRcJMay 31, 2021
Proud of you, @naomiosaka. https://t.co/ReCg1K33oAMay 31, 2021
As a professional athlete that also works in media, I experience both sides. Accessibility is important for media to cover sports.. but NEVER at the cost of mental health & inner peace. Thank you, Naomi for sharing your truth & speaking for those who share the same struggle. 🤍🙏🏿 https://t.co/3MFEneiddAMay 31, 2021
So proud of @NaomiOsaka for valuing her own mental health over the unnecessary demands of her profession, but why on earth was she forced to choose? https://t.co/mhNFJd8CkUMay 31, 2021
She’s really the truth though. https://t.co/PV89P7zTQJMay 31, 2021
Take care of yourself like Naomi Osaka.May 31, 2021
Shouldn’t one’s athletic ability be the focus and what’s most important? @naomiosaka was clearly ready to play & had enough awareness of self to recognize her mental health challenges around the media. Mental health should be one’s first consideration. I’m proud of her✨🌸✨May 31, 2021
Good for Naomi Osaka. Take your breaks and protect yourself because the rest of the world will work you to death if you allow it.May 31, 2021
Good for Osaka for prioritizing her mental health and shame on the French Open and tennis governing bodies for making it come to this. https://t.co/vPHkyVKrIiMay 31, 2021
Professional sports organizations, as well as the sports journalism industry, revolve around and are driven by commerce first, not concern for athletes’ well being. There are great sports journalists, but money makes the whole thing move. @naomiosaka could spark needed changes. https://t.co/wMS1xTd7h4May 31, 2021
You shouldnt ever have to make a decison like this-but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be dont protect their own. major respect @naomiosaka https://t.co/OcRd95MqCnMay 31, 2021
Naomi Osaka is demonstrating the power of refusal. To refuse work at the expense of our health, wellness, & more. To refuse humiliation under the guise of professionalism. Refusal is beautiful. It’s even better when we do it collectively. Support her and workers who aren’t rich.May 31, 2021
On the last day of Mental Health Awareness Month, Osaka couldn't have set a better example.
Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.
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