By: Stephanie Guerilus, The Grio
Four-time Grand Slam tennis phenom Naomi Osaka put herself first—becoming more of a hero for prioritizing her mental health and antagonizing those who hate when women exercise their agency. Especially Black women who have the nerve to do so. Japan’s Osaka announced last week that she wouldn’t be doing any press interviews at the 2021 French Open for the sake of her mental health. She found athletes subjecting themselves to post-match Q&As similar to “kicking a person while they were down.” Knowing she’d be fined for reneging on this obligation, Osaka hoped that money would be donated to mental health charities. Osaka is arguably one of the franchise players in tennis, reportedly earning a historic $55 million in 2020. The Japanese-Haitian superstar is a box office draw. Still, she didn’t flex and dictate diva demands. She wanted to protect her peace. But even when we explain ourselves nicely, the collective world still doesn’t listen to Black women if we’re not staying in our place. It’s all about checking in with yourself until it’s put into practice. Roland-Garros fined Osaka $15,000 after she won her first round in the competition. The tennis star was then threatened with expulsion from the French Open, and future expulsions from the Australian and United States Opens and Wimbledon, if she didn’t participate in any news conferences. Roland-Garros applied even more pressure by seemingly mocking the second-seeded woman athlete with a since-deleted troll tweet about other tennis stars who “understood the assignment.” These organizations can master the latest trends but don’t have similar evolutions when it comes to the well-being of their star player. Osaka pulled out of the French Open on Monday, citing her depression and anxiety that resulted after her 2018 breakthrough U.S. Open win against Serena Williams, which catapulted her to worldwide fame. Several major women tennis players including Martina Navatalova, Billie Jean Young, Serena and Venus Williams have come to the defense of Naomi Osaka for her decision to protect her mental health.