Fans, fellow athletes and even brands are rallying to show support for tennis superstar Naomi Osaka after she announced on Monday that she’s withdrawing from the French Open in part to take care of her mental heal*h.
The 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam winner !ss*ed a statement on social media explaining that she’s been suff-ering “long bouts of de*ress!on” since the U.S. Open in 2018 and has had “a really h*** time coping with that.” In an e!fo*t to deal with her “social anxiety,” Osaka shared that she was hoping to “exercise self-care and skip the press conferences.”
Solidarity for Naomi Osaka! All the players should strike in solidarity with her! It is despicable that sports sponsors and networks force athletes to speak to the media. That is not their job. They should all quit the French Open until they rescind her fine and she comes back!
— Stevie Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) June 1, 2021
That move prompted the heads of the four Grand Slam tournaments (the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open) to fine her $15,000 for “choosing not to h-on-or her contractual media obl*gat-ions.”
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
Osaka said she had apologized to the French Open officials, but added that she would be taking “some time away from the court now,” and that “when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, pr-ess and fans.”
still thinking about naomi. it takes so much effort and strength to put your wellbeing over ambition, to prioritize mental health in a culture that denies its importance even as it actively plays a role in destroying it. she is leading by example even when she shouldn’t have to.
— Jenna Wortham (@jennydeluxe) June 1, 2021
The Japan nati*ve also e*phasi!ed that withdrawing from the event would be “the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being.”
Nike, which has had a sponsorship deal with Osaka since 2019, !ssu-ed a statement backing her decision. “Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her co*rage in sharing her own me!tal health experience,” the statement said, per CNN.
I am so sad about Naomi Osaka.I truly hope she will be ok. As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental & emotional aspect gets short shrift. This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi- we are all pulling for you!
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) May 31, 2021
Another of Osaka’s sponsors, Mastercard, also i*su*d a statement in support, according to the news network. “Naomi Osaka’s decision reminds us all how important it is to prioritize personal health and well-being,” the company said.
Imagine if her concerns about her mental health had been met with a caring, “We understand and want you to be well” and “Let’s make this space more kind” by tournament officials. https://t.co/YJ2T5t7U70
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) May 31, 2021
“We support her and admire her courage to addr-ess important issues, both on and off the court.” Fellow tennis stars have come out to back Osaka, including Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King.
Williams said in a post-match news conference on Monday that she feels for Osaka: “Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently.
We are with you @naomiosaka 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾 #Courage https://t.co/Zo840pPRcJ
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) May 31, 2021
You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can. That’s the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can.” Outside of the tennis world, other athletes including Russell Wilson and Steph Curry shared notes of “major respect” and admiration for Osaka.
Support has continued to roll in from i*fluen!ial figures like Bernice King, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and many other fa-ns.