Saturday 29 May 2021

Snowflakes in Paris

Almost a year since my last post and I guess that's what freedom does to you. There have definitely been things I wanted to comment on but I guess I'll get to writing about them eventually, once the novelty of being free has worn off. Sorry, I didn't mean to say free. I meant to say 'free'.

So I came across this article, published yesterday just before the start of this year's French Open. Naomi Osaka, a Japanese female tennis player ranked 2 in the world at the time of writing released a statement that she would not give any news conferences during the tournament because she wants to protect her mental health.

I'm not quite sure what to think about it. I, for one, am all for valuing mental health. I think it's just as important as physical and emotional health and just because there may not be any visible signs doesn't mean that it's not as painful.

Competitive sport is emotional and singles tennis players have it tough. No coaching allowed during the match, no team members to pick you up on court and worst of all - no explanation as to why shots that you have practiced for years decide not to land in the court.

Straight after (and before!) the matches in most televised sports, it's the norm to be interviewed. Some journalists are more probing than others and when emotions are running high this can prove to be an explosive combination.

With fines for missing news conferences estimated to be around US$ 20,000 per conference missed, it is an amount that would be out of reach for most apart from the top few of the elite tennis players. Tennis is notoriously expensive to fund and the last time I was investigating, the average male player only started to break even at about rank 100.

Those in the upper echelons of the tennis rankings are able to generate substantial prize money that travel and other expenses are more than covered. Naomi Osaka, at the time of writing, has won just under $20 million in prize money alone in her professional career. That's prize money from tournaments which does not include any additional income from sponsorships or media work.

Forbes reported that Osaka earned $37 million in 2019 alone so it can be said that her off-court earnings are considerably more than her prize money. Earnings which, for me, would not have been possible without the coverage and interest generated without the very same media she has decided to boycott.

By no means do I insinuate that by earning 'a lot' of money, it justifies whatever happens to her. I do feel that media especially nowadays is part and parcel of what the 'job' entails. In any other workplace a normal employee doesn't just get to pick and choose which parts of the job they do to suit them. One thing is suffering harrassment or bullying at the workplace and another thing is having to deal with tough issues.

I do think that the players have to acknowledge that in their view, the media is a necessary 'evil' especially considering the privileges being afforded when competing for their sport's biggest prizes. I'm trying very hard not to call this a case of generation snowflake at it again but I'm struggling to find reasons against it.