Tennis star Naomi Osaka showed us athletes are not commodities

Tennis star Naomi Osaka showed us athletes are not commodities

Taking a hard line with elite athletes – that they are contractually bound to show up before the media – can backfire when there is anxiety among the best performers, says a psychologist.

QUEENSLAND: Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka took a stand this week that called attention to the mental health of professional athletes.

She refused to conduct interviews with the media after her matches at the French Open, citing concerns over her own mental well-being.

And, in return, the tennis authorities fined her and threatened her with further action before she ultimately pulled out of the tournament.

There are two sides to this story. On the one hand, this is part of the contract, it’s part of the deal. Tennis players get paid millions of dollars and in return they have to do media interviews whether they win or lose.

The issue is when you have somebody like Osaka, who is by her own admission an introverted person with high social anxiety. She essentially hates doing this stuff but knows she has to.

If there was ever a public cry for help, this is it. She’s talked about suffering bouts of depression since she won the US Open in 2018, how she wears headphones to try to cope with her social anxiety to stay in her own little bubble.

She knew that if she lost at the French Open again, there would be a forensic examination of her inability to win on clay that would just reinforce her own self-doubt. So, she decided not put herself through that.

I find it disappointing that the sport has adopted the stance it has. The authorities have basically taken a hard line with her — you’re contracted to do this, and you have to do it or risk further fines and possible disqualification.

Source: CNA

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