Smith joined a long list of people, including tennis stars Serena Williams and her sister Venus, with his support.
Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open last week citing mental health concerns. This came after Osaka announced that she would not be participating in post-match news conferences and the officials of Roland Garros fined the 23-year-old for failing to honor her contractual media obligations. But the second-ranked woman in tennis chose to put her mental health first and withdrew from the tournament. In her follow-up statement, she wrote: “Anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.” She went onto acknowledge that reporters had not been unkind to her, but she thought "it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences.”
Osaka's announcement came as a shock to many but she was also flooded with supportive messages from celebrities and top athletes who appreciated her courage. Joining the long list of people who have extended their support to the tennis star is actor Will Smith. In an Instagram post, the 52-year-old shared a handwritten note that read: "Hey Naomi, you are right. They are wrong! I am with you." This is, of course, in reference to the authority's refusal to allow Osaka to sit out the press conferences for the sake of her mental well-being even after she revealed a history of depression and anxiety.
Tennis stars Serena Williams and her sister Venus, former tennis champion, Martina Navratilova, and NFL star Russell Wilson among many others extended their support to Osaka. Singer P!nk tweeted: For whatever it’s worth-I’m proud of Naomi Osaka for putting her mental health, her well-being above everything. If we don’t take care of our health, our wellness- well then who will? What do we have if we don’t have our health? Don’t we know by now that success isn’t worth our life? Brands like Nike, Mastercard, watchmaker TAG Heuer, Nissin Foods, Nippon Airways, also extended their support to Osaka, reported CNN.
The four-time Grand Slam winner stepping down from a tournament as big as the French Open without suffering a physical injury has never happened before, reported The New York Times. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” Osaka said in the statement she released. “The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.” This was the historic win in which Osaka defeated Serena Williams, 6-2, 6-4, in an emotional final that left both players in tears.
In a statement, Grand Slams remarked on the situation and said, "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 honor their commitments." It also mentioned that if Osaka refused to undertake her media obligations, "she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences."
After the stern reprimand, Osaka decided that "the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris." She went on to say, "I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly." Osaka also explained that she was "not a natural public speaker and [I] get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world's media. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can." She also mentioned that she wrote privately to the tournament and apologized, hoping to be able to discuss more after the tournament.