Naomi Osaka is pretty admirable in a number of ways. The Japanese and Haitian tennis player is ranked World No 2, she’s a four-time Grand Slam singles champion (one of which she won over Serena Williams, no small feat), and her serve can reach up to 201 kilometres per hour.
But she’s just as impressive off the tennis court as she is on it. In the aftermath of George Floyd‘s murder last year, she flew down to Minneapolis, visiting the corner where he was killed to protest. She penned an op-ed for Esquire about the event and her experience; within the piece, she announced her support for the ‘defund the police’ movement.
At the US Open last year, for each of the seven rounds, she wore a facemask with the names of Black people who had been a victim of racial injustice or inequality.
Naomi Osaka brought seven face masks to the US Open.
Each mask highlights a different Black victim of racial injustice and police brutality.
– Breonna Taylor
– Elijah McClain
– Ahmaud Arbery
– Trayvon Martin
– George Floyd
– Philando Castile
Today: Tamir Rice
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) September 12, 2020
As The Big Issue highlighted, Osaka recently invested in, and became a team owner of, a National Women’s Soccer League team. While being interviewed by the publication, she focused upon the fact that parity in sporting prize money is rare — in fact, tennis is one of the only global sports where there is this parity between gender in terms of this — so she has been “particularly motivated to support female athletes in sports where this is not the case.”
And the latest move that we admire her for? The fact she has opted out of taking part in press at her latest tennis tournament, the French Open, and is risking large fines — that can go up to USD $20,000 — to do so. Why? Because of her mental health.
Taking to both her Twitter and Instagram, the tennis champ said in a statement that she would not be taking part in press at Roland Garros (the French Open), as she’s often felt that “people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.”
Citing experience, she says that players “are often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds” and that she will no longer be subjecting herself to “people that doubt me.”
Osaka acknowledged the possibilities of fines, but addressed them saying: “If the organisations 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.”
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 26, 2021
She received support from other prominent tennis players, including Venus Williams who commented on the Instagram post saying: “Girl, do you. Your life is yours to live!”
Bad Feminist author, Roxane Gay, commented on Osaka’s tweet, writing, “I am enjoying this ‘fine me, I don’t care’ energy.”
Amanda Gorman, the Youth Poet Laureate who read at President Biden’s inauguration, said, “Protect yourself my dear, keep changing the game”.