How Naomi Osaka’s Stance For Mental Health Could Transform The Entertainment Industry

Naomi Osaka, the highest-paid female athlete, has been fined for sitting out of the press for mental health concerns. See how Serena Williams, Steph Curry, and Billie Jean King have contributed to the conversation.

Molly Perrine

AfterBuzz TV Host & Writer
Posted On: June 4th, 2021 10:08 am pst

Maria Menounos
Keven Undergaro
AfterBuzz TV Founders

Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, AfterBuzz TV is the artist-friendly entertainment news platform that celebrates, discusses, interviews, promotes and reports on the widest range of stars, creators and content through video, audio and article publications.

How Naomi Osaka's Stance For Mental Health Could Transform The Entertainment Industry

Credit: Netflix

Growing up, we are always told to do what is best for us and are expected to always bring our A game, whether it is in an office, on the field, or in our personal life. Finding a balance between the two can be difficult and can sometimes seem impossible, especially without prioritizing your mental health. This overwhelming pressure of a ‘being the best’ mentality can get tiring and be detrimental without much needed breaks. These breaks can be intimidating, fearing that one may be seen as weak. However, it is within these breaks you are shown to be the strongest because of the willingness to know your limits and to be able to trust them. This strength was exhibited by Naomi Osaka, a female tennis player, on May 26th when she posted on her social media that she will be sitting out of press conferences during the French Open.

For background, Naomi Osaka is a Japanese tennis player who currently holds the number 2 spot for the female category in the world. Being the highest-paid female athlete in the world, Osaka has won 4 Grand Slam championships. She came to stardom at the age of 16 when she defeated the former US open champion, Samantha Stosur. Rising to fame and popularity at such a young age, it is comprehensible that the athlete needs time to exercise self-care. The tweet was posted in response to declining press after the match for reasons concerning prioritizing her mental health. Knowing there would be a consequence, Osaka explains that mental health can be heavily disregarded with professional athletes, especially in the press-room. Unfortunately for Osaka, she was well aware of the outdated rules and ends her tweet with saying she hopes the organization puts her fines towards a mental health charity. By adding to the conversation about mental health publicly, she is contributing to the exposure of not only the Roland Garros organization but also to the world of professional athletics for a lack of concern for the well-being of their athletes. For professional athletes, physical health is often held superior over mental health. In addition to exposing this issue, Osaka is also helping to break the well-known stigma around mental health.

So what exactly happened after her tweet? After her first statement, Roland Garros issued a $15,000 fine for not honoring her obligations of doing press after a match, in addition to releasing their own statement.

From Roland Garros official site (www.rolandgarros.com)
The organization shows sympathy, wishing Osaka the best for her rest and recovery. The sympathy, however, was outweighed with disregarding her call for a modification in the rules.
To expand on her initial point and to the fine, Osaka releases another statement on twitter.

In the second statement, Osaka reveals her struggle with both depression and anxiety. She explains that her motive was not to be a distraction and she admits her timing and message could have been better. By coming out about her mental health illnesses, she explains it is extremely difficult to overpower her social anxiety for interviews and she had already been in a vulnerable state prior to the French Open. She admits that the French press had always treated her with kindness, however, her struggles were too much to overcome at the time. From the statement, we now know that Osaka has made the decision to drop out of the tournament as a whole. By taking this stance, Osaka is both doing what is best for her and taking a stand for mental health awareness.

So how are fellow athletes reacting? Serena Williams, an American tennis player and recipient of 23 Grand Slam single titles, reacted to Naomi’s withdrawal.

Embed from Getty Images

While in an interview with Associated Press, Serena is cited with saying, “Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can. That’s the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can.” She also opens up about needing someone to talk to in moments of doubt or distress. Listening to your body and communicating your needs, she believes, is essential.

Another professional athlete, Steph Curry, an American basketball player on the Golden State Warriors, tweets his support.

Embed from Getty Images

He tweets towards Osaka, “You shouldn’t ever have to make a decision like this — but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be don’t protect their own, major respect.” In regards to the fine, Steph voices his disappointment in the organization for not taking her mental struggles as a concern.

Along with current athletes, former tennis player and current activist, Billie Jean King admired her bravery.

Embed from Getty Images

She publicly tweets, “It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression. Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs. We wish her well.”

Naomi Osaka has evidently created a large dialogue that other professional athletes and celebrities are showing both alliance and agreement with the issue at hand. In how the athletes reacted, it is no secret there is an issue of lack of representation for an individual’s mental health. Her stance has now started conversation but hopefully, will create change within the rules of organizations for the future. Osaka has provided awareness to not only athletes but also to all that it’s okay to not be okay.

About The Author:

Molly Perrine attends Skidmore College with a major in Business and a minor in Italian and International Affairs. She hopes to go into the field of international marketing and is currently an intern for AfterBuzz TV and Better Together with Maria Menounos.

Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, artist-friendly AfterBuzz TV is the world’s largest digital broadcast network and pop culture news platform, producing post-game ‘after-shows’ for nearly all favorite TV shows, interviewing cast and showrunners and providing the widest video, audio and article coverage of shows, content and influencers than any entertainment news platforms in existence

“We don’t just celebrate and cover the top shows, content and stars, we celebrate and cover ALL the shows, content and stars.”

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