FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 07, 2021
Tennis star Naomi Osaka sparks discussion of mental health and athletes' media obligations
Read about another athlete and tell why she or he makes news.
Share two facts or a quote from other sports coverage.
Now look for coverage about journalism or mental health and summarize something you learn.
Issues involving sports, journalism and mental health are raised by tennis star Naomi Osaka's withdrawal from the French Open tournament last week in a dispute over press conferences. Osaka, 23, is the No. 2-ranked women's player in the world and the top-earning female athlete in history. She says she suffers from anxiety about public speaking and that answering often-repetitive and sometimes-hostile questions from sportswriters undermines her mental health. "I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me," she posted on Twitter late last month, adding later on Instagram that she feels "huge waves of anxiety" before media events and has "suffered long bouts of depression." When the French Tennis Federation fined Osaka $15,000 for skipping a news conference and warned of expulsion unless she complied with "the assignment," she quit after her first-round win "so that everyone can go back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris."
A day later, administrators of the French Open and three other "Grand Slam" series tournaments in Australia, England and the United States promised to address players' concerns about mental health. "Mental health is a very challenging issue, which deserves our utmost attention,” they say in a statement. We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathize with the unique pressures tennis players may face." Ann Li, a 20-year-old American who won her French Open first round last week, said: “I respect her openness. . . . I hope she's doing OK." A past captain of the U.S. women's national soccer team, two-time Olympic champion Julie Foudy, says Osaka has "sparked a discussion that's long overdue. I think most organizations, leagues and team owners do a terrible job of addressing this, even though you have athletes who are speaking up more and more and having the courage to say, 'I have some things I'm dealing with and need help.' Organizations can't just keep sweeping [it aside] or threatening."
New York Times opinion writer Lindsay Crouse describes Osaka as "part of a growing group of female athletes who are betting that they’ll be happier — and maybe perform better, too — by setting their own terms. Increasingly, they have the stature and influence to do so." Media writer Tom Jones at the Poynter Institute training center in St. Petersburg, Fla., posts suggestions: "We should not dismiss Osaka's concerns, which are legitimate and critical. We also need to examine how female athletes and athletes of color are treated by the media. A group of thoughtful athletes, sports league executives and media types need to talk about how to make the experience less harmful for athletes, more effective for leagues and more productive for journalists."
Naomi Osaka says: "I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that." – May 31 statement
Columnist says: "The French Open essentially running her out of the tournament was cold, disrespectful and inexcusable." – Tom Jones, Poynter Institute
Golf champ says: "You have a few people in the media today who are trying to make a name and they want to get sensational. We have had that for 20 years or so. Didn't have it much right when I was growing up." – Jack Nicklaus, 81
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