Be very careful when telling other people what they're thinking. Better still, don't do it at all.
Naomi Osaka generated global headlines this week with her decision not to speak to media at the French Open. Under the intense and grossly unfair accusations from the media gang who she dared speak out against, she then went the extra step and removed herself from the tournament.
Not all coverage of her predicament was negative. The initial volley of outrage though, from media who perceived her planned snub as a personal attack, most certainly was. The often trotted-out concept of 'if you can't handle the heat, get out of the fire' was floated. As was the blinkered view that successful, wealthy and famous individuals need to bow to public expectations because without the public they wouldn't live in that rarefied air. How can someone like that possibly be depressed?
They belittled her fragile state. They told her what she was thinking. They accused her of hiding behind two words: mental health.
The WTA showed all of the compassion of the dead by threatening Osaka with major sanctions, after fining her for her insolence. The media took her self-enforced silence as a direct attack on the tradition of post-match press conferences, undermining the relevance of their role.
Osaka's mental health is fragile. The years of constant media attention on a self-confessed shy and introverted athlete became too much. After bursting onto the international scene by beating an ungracious and temperamental Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open final, the pressure on her has escalated. She has struggled to find peace in her space.
She planned her protest and executed it, but the reaction was far from empathetic. So she moved to plan B. Get out.
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Some have had the temerity to suggest it was an act to avoid probing questions around her lack of success on the clay surface. This off-target suggestion not only damages those who are brave enough to publicly face their demons, it also serves as a warning to others who are struggling that they will not be believed.
So far in her short career, Osaka has shown she is not afraid to use her position at the top to draw attention to important issues. Black Lives Matter is a case in point.
Maybe the order of events wasn't palatable to some, but the end result was worth it. The WTA and the governing bodies of the four majors have paid attention and promised to consider change in the structure of their press conferences.
Suggestions that she should broach this subject in a room full of media at the tournament astounds me. The least tenable and contrary action for an anxious and vulnerable athlete is to face a room full of the very people that have triggered her emotional state over a period of time. She has eased into the debate via a medium she finds less confronting and one where she has control.
Above all, Osaka has used her position and publicly exposed her frailties to start a conversation. For that, she should be applauded.