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Let’s Have a Good-Faith Discussion About Naomi Osaka

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Is it possible to have a levelheaded discussion about Naomi Osaka’s decision to drop out of the French Open on Monday? Or has everyone already retreated to their corners, with one side arguing that mental health trumps all and the other lamenting a younger generation’s supposed entitlement?

Let’s try. In fact, let’s try it in the format Osaka, like many other athletes, so abhors: a direct question-and-answer session. Let’s assume the questioners are the unwashed media masses and the answers come from a theoretical, good-faith, just-trying-to-find-the-right-answer-and-make-the-world-a-better-place wise old seer. Hey, come on, all of this is imaginary — just play along for a while.

What is the backstory to Osaka’s French Open withdrawal?

Heading into the tournament, Osaka said she would not be talking to the press at the French Open, a direct violation of the tournament’s and the tour’s rules. Officials at the French Open announced they would fine her $15,000 for every press conference she skipped and added, ominously, that she risked being “defaulted” from the tournament, and potentially from future Grand Slams, if she continued to break their rules. This was a strong, perhaps overly aggressive maneuver. Osaka, who reportedly did not respond to organizers’ attempts to speak with her about the issue, responded by dropping out of the tournament altogether. She then released a statement on social media explaining that she had “suffered long bouts of depression” and that she was dropping out of the tournament partly out of “self-care.”


Is she okay?

Well, no one can speak for Osaka’s mental health, and she seems to be battling with it herself. Unfortunately for her, when she is having a difficult time, she has to go through it with the entire world watching. As she said in her statement, she has a long history with social anxiety, which is hard enough to deal with, and much harder when a bunch of journalists start peppering her with questions.

Is there any reason the press would be after her in particular? Isn’t she really popular?

She’s very popular: She made more than $50 million last year and has many, many endorsement deals. (Including one with Japanese media company Wowow, which, because it was paying her, actually did get to ask her some questions at the French Open.........

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