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Plenty of prominent athletes and other big names from the sports world rushed to social media to support Naomi Osaka after she withdrew from the French Open.
Osaka announced on Twitter on Monday that she was pulling out of the event just days after she made the decision not to speak to reporters during the tournament.
“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,” she wrote in a statement, in part. “Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that sees me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety … I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”
Osaka’s media blackout drew plenty of backlash, including from the French Open itself — which sent out, and later deleted, a shady tweet about it, fined Osaka and even threatened to default her from the tournament.
French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton issued a statement after Osaka’s withdrawal, too, but declined to answer any questions from reporters while doing so.
Athletes, sports figures support Osaka on Twitter
Shortly after Osaka’s statement, plenty in the sports world and beyond offered their support on Twitter.
It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression.
Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs.
We wish her well.
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) May 31, 2021
It’s so sad that we are in a time that when a young person tells you they need help or a break, people respond with anger and a lack of support! I stand with you @naomiosaka Your mental health is just as important as your physical health ❤️🙏🏾
— Lisa Leslie (@LisaLeslie) May 31, 2021
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
Just a question for the tennis authorities — is it better for your sport to have Naomi Osaka playing and not speaking to the media or not playing at all? https://t.co/B0MXQKCilp
— Stan Van Gundy (@realStanVG) May 31, 2021
Time to create the Osaka Open. A tournament for the best who will be treated the best. © #OsakaOpen
— Renee Montgomery (@ReneeMontgomery) May 31, 2021
stay strong ❤️ I admire your vulnerability
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) May 31, 2021
Mental Health is nothing to criticize. Nothing to joke about. Pls take your mental health seriously. Without my support system, I truly believe I would not be here today. Here for you @naomiosaka https://t.co/8UdJexQPVj
— Mardy Fish (@MardyFish) May 31, 2021
As human beings we have to do better at supporting each other. Mental health is real. And to fine a person for trying to protect their peace is not giving somebody a safe place to be a persons best self. I support you Naomi https://t.co/0NeSTQlh5B
Take care of yourself like Naomi Osaka.
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) May 31, 2021
It took a ton of guts and maturity for @naomiosaka to be as upfront and revealing as she has been about her mental health. I hope it will inspire sports organizations and the sports journalism industry to show maturity as well—make positive changes. It’s past time. End
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) May 31, 2021
Thanks @naomiosaka for being an amazing role model- we all need to take care of our mental health.
And, we need to be acutely aware of the people, situations and relationships that compromise it. https://t.co/KWSHnCBw03
— Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) May 31, 2021
As a professional athlete that also works in media, I experience both sides. Accessibility is important for media to cover sports.. but NEVER at the cost of mental health & inner peace. Thank you, Naomi for sharing your truth & speaking for those who share the same struggle. 🤍🙏🏿 https://t.co/3MFEneiddA
— Chiney Ogwumike (@chiney) May 31, 2021
Serena Williams talks Osaka at French Open
Serena Williams was asked about Osaka and her own anxiety regarding speaking with reporters at the French Open on Monday.
Williams said that she would enter press conferences feeling anxious or concerned “a lot,” and that all she is focused on with the situation is Osaka’s health.
“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi,” she said. “I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like. Like I said, I’ve been in those positions.
“We all have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can, and that’s the only thing I can say. I think she’s doing the best she can.”
Serena Williams also spoke of a need for players (and people generally) to "step forward and make an effort" when seeking help with their mental health, mentioning the help she herself has been able to receive. #RG21 pic.twitter.com/LPsSWdvRE1
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 31, 2021
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