Naomi Osaka fined $15K by tennis officials after refusing press for sake of mental health

Naomi Osaka fined $15K by tennis officials after refusing press for sake of mental health

Tennis champion Naomi Osaka was hit with a $15,000 fine after announcing that she would not do press interviews during the French Open, saying she was prioritizing her mental health instead.

The fine was announced in a joint statement Sunday by the heads of the organizations that run the Grand Slam tournaments — the U.S Tennis Association, the French Tennis Federation, All England Lawn Tennis Club and Tennis Australia.

Osaka announced through her social media Wednesday that she would not take part in press and Roland-Garros because she “often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health.”

Japan’s Naomi Osaka looks up after winning her final match against Jennifer Brady of the U.S. on Feb. 20, 2021, in Melbourne.Kelly Defina / Reuters file

Officials at the French tournament asked “her to reconsider her position and tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being” but were unable to engage with Osaka, according to the joint statement.

“Naomi Osaka today chose not to honour her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct,” the statement said. “The mental health of players competing in our tournaments and on the Tours is of the utmost importance to the Grand Slams.”

The four organizations said they have dedicated “significant” resources to player well-being, but “to continue to improve however, we need engagement from the players to understand their perspective and find ways to improve their experiences.”

Osaka is at risk for more severe consequences if she continues to ignore her “obligations” through media appearances. The officials’ statement said she could be at risk for default from the tournament and suspension from other competitions for repeated violations.

“We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement,” the statement said. “As a sport there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honour their commitments.”

Osaka, who is ranked No. 2 in the world, said Wednesday that she expected to be fined and hoped the amount would go toward a mental health charity. She also said that it was not a personal vendetta against the tournament, but that she decided she would not subject herself to repeated questions that brought doubt against her.

“If the organizations think that they can just keep saying, ‘Do the press or you’re gonna be fined,’ and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centerpiece of their corporation then I just gotta laugh.”

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