It is possible to see events that led to tennis superstars Naomi Osaka To be ruled out of the French Open on Monday as a simple contractual dispute. A worker with leverage did not like the duty he was asked to take (sitting for the press conference) and was willing to take a pay cut (or, in this case, a large fine) to avoid it. In that case strictness is expected from the tournament-run French Tennis Federation – isn’t handling the press a part of the job for a professional athlete?
But what exactly is Osaka’s job? Between May 2020 and May 2021, he earned $55.2 million, maintaining her status as the highest-paid female athlete in history – much of it from advertising and media involvement, not winning awards. Much of her wealth comes from being a public figure, not a tennis player, and as proven by many different types of celebrities over the past decade, media access is no longer necessary for the very famous.
Her rarefied skills are still a significant part of her appeal to the companies that sponsor her, and she clearly continues to care personally about playing and winning. This is why the threat of expulsion from the competition, coupled with the aggressive media reaction from the Roland-Garros tournament organizers, seemed somewhat meaningless. Eventually its account even tweeted and deleted a blatant attack on Osaka in the form of a meme. (“They understood the assignment,” read tweet, with pictures of four different players sitting for the media.)
It is common to dismiss celebrities who complain about intrusive press attention, as seen in the directive at Backlash. Prince Harry and Meghan Markleroyal exit. Especially for athletes, post-match debriefing with a group of sometimes insensitive journalists is as much a tradition as it is a cog in the machine that keeps sports media running. If the ritual must be defended by threatening a single player, which speaks to its psychological cost, then it may not actually be as necessary as some people think. In addition, the French Open has its own complicated history of controversy with athletes. after Serena Williams wore a Nike catsuit to compete in the tournament in 2018, the body-con outfit was later banned. “It will no longer be accepted,” the federation president said. “You have to respect the game and the place.”
But the controversy about Osaka’s decision to exit the press also speaks to trends outside the sport. In an age where celebrities have a direct line to the public via social media and are more sensitive about managing their image, it may seem that journalists have a vested interest in holding onto those points of reach. that still exist. But to the extent that junkets, press conferences, and other instant interviews still exist, they happen because the celebrity has something to get out of it, whether it’s promotion for a project or an award. After the Golden Globes broadcast was canceled by NBC last month, the actors like Scarlett Johansson Mentioned that he had long disliked negotiating with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, although he continued to do so.
When it comes to Grand Slams, players earn their prize on the court, not in front of the mic. Not that Osaka is also hostile to the press; in February, she opened up about her relationship with the rapper Rubbish in the pages of GQ and shared personal details about his concern over winning. as the new Yorker It is reported this week that he has a long history of speaking eloquently at press conferences, even when his emotions overwhelm him.
In some ways it seems that Osaka wanted to take advantage of a situational concern – this time too eager to speak to the press – into a systemic change that could help other athletes in the future. Had Osaka issued a more detailed statement about her mental health last week, her decision to avoid press during the tournament would have attracted less suspicion and produced a different result. Still, it feels cruel to force a young woman to come forward with deeply personal information about her depression, in return for being able to exercise the power she had earned by actually becoming a top player.
She was clearly facing an unattractive set of choices. She could either play well and win, or she could follow the rules by negotiating with the press, even if the resulting anxiety lowered her chances of performing. In addition to at least $15,000, Osaka was fined Sunday, a decision that appears to be too simple. What happened after that otherwise simple decision meant that Osaka would be barred from winning on any bet.
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