Despite Championing Mental Health, Naomi Osaka Could Face Expulsion

Last week, Naomi Osaka made headlines in the sporting world as she shone a spotlight on mental health. While the global pandemic has seen mental health become a necessary conversation both at home and in the workplace, in sporting competitions it still sits on the margins. For athletes, there is only mental toughness. Confidence is something to be championed, while any sign of mental struggle is to give your opponents an edge, something to draw on during the match when physicality begins wavering. It was refreshing then, to see Osaka speak about mental health so openly and honestly. 

In her post, Osaka outlined that she would not take part in press conferences at Roland Garros due to their effects on her mental health. She said in a statement that press conferences are like “kicking a person while they’re down,” with journalists asking questions that “bring doubt into our minds.” The post received great support for figures both within and outside of the sport, with many of Osaka’s peers reflecting on their own attitude towards press conferences.

But while Osaka said she expected to face fines, the tennis star has instead not only been fined, but now faces the possibility of expulsion. In a stern statement released shortly after her win, the four grand slam tournaments warned that if Osaka continues to snub the press, she could be “exposing herself” to sanctions including being thrown out of the tournament, with a major offence investigation that could lead to possible grand slam suspensions down the line. The statement also saw the tournaments reveal that they had “unsuccessfully” attempted to speak with Osaka and check on her wellbeing, but said their attempts to reach out to her were met with a similar ending. 

“We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences,” they wrote. “As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions.”

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