Prediction: Naomi Osaka Will Need To Sue Tennis
Prediction: Naomi Osaka Will Need To Sue Tennis | Sports Takes & News | TooAthletic.com
The sport of tennis has declared war on Naomi Osaka after the world’s second ranked female player announced her mental health was more important than the money. The showdown came on Sunday when the French Open announced a $15,000 fine against Osaka for avoiding her media obligation prior to the start of the year’s second Grand Slam tournament. Along with the fine, the four Grand Slam tournaments of the sport announced that continuing to avoid her media obligation could cause the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the United States Open to suspend Naomi Osaka from all future events. Setting up a future showdown that will take place not on a tennis court, but in a court of law since it is clear Naomi Osaka will need to sue tennis in order to win the right to choose who and when she wants to protect her mental health.
While attempting to let everyone know they all care about her well-being, the organizers of the French Open Sunday issued a statement, which read, in part:
“Naomi Osaka today chose not to honor her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine … 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. 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.”
In an attempt to justify their actions, the French open added:
“We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement. As a sport there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honour their commitments.”
What we have here is a showdown between an athlete’s personal rights and well-being against a tournament’s right to enforce their own rules. I don’t pretend to know the laws of France or England where the current and next Grand Slam tournament are going to be played; however, I have a feeling there are lawyers all across New York City who would love to get the United States Open organizers in front of a judge to force the year’s final Grand Slam tournament to distance themselves from Sunday’s statement. Because while my first thought is that if you drug tested the crowd at almost any tournament you would be assured of finding enough prescription drugs to fill a CVS pharmacy, my second thought is to ask: Is this really the fight tennis wants to fight?
The scary prospect of tennis saying that avoiding press conferences gives players an advantage is laughable since most trainers will tell you right after a match, world-class athletes should be getting treatment on their body, not sitting in a chair talking to the media. From the time the last shot hits the clay, grass or hard court, a microphone is in the face of tennis players, with a parade of questions going on for long stretches of time. Is there really not a middle ground that tournaments can create to allow a little breathing room for their main attractions; do we really need to hear from them while they are still coming down from an important win or difficult defeat?
Do really truly need to have athletes speak at all anymore since so many fans are used to social media posts to get their news directly from their favorite players. Isn’t this fight more about protecting those who are paying millions of dollars a year to cover an event that we can see with our own eyes?
The world is moving forward in understanding mental health issues better, so do the organizers in Paris, London or New York really want to pick a fight with any tennis player over this issue? What if Naomi Osaka or any other player shows up to the tournament with a doctor’s note saying they have social anxiety disorder, or some other documented concern that should excuse them from speaking to the media. Would someone in one or all of these cities really be forced to make an announcement that a player has been expelled from their tournament for following a doctor’s order and protecting their mental health? Is this the sports world that tennis really wants to inhabit?
After seeing the harsh line drawn by the Grand Slam tournament so quickly over this issue, it is difficult to imagine that a lawsuit won’t be filed by someone who is under the care of a sports doctor and has a condition that would make it better to avoid press conferences. Yes, I understand it is written into their rule book; but rules can be changed to fit the times, and this is one issue that the rule book hasn’t taken into account, yet, but soon will need to.
Sadly, the sport of tennis has drawn a line more defined than those on their courts; but it will likely take a visit to a courtroom for this stance to be upheld by one or more judges in several different countries.
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