Naomi Osaka has paved a new path forward for athletes and their relationship with the media, after she famously stepped away from press obligations and then the court altogether during the French Open.
As Osaka returns to tennis and to public life, the line between access and overexposure continues to be drawn. The tennis star was brought to tears last month in a pre-tournament press conference at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati after fielding a pointed question from a member of the press. The incident sparked a renewed conversation about the role of media and mental health in sport.
“When I look at athletes like ourselves and Naomi, I mean, I just think about like, we really go through a lot,” says A’ja Wilson on the latest episode of Tea with A & Phee.
“It’s just like, I just want to do my job and be good at it because I know I worked hard, and on top of that if I mess up one little time, I’m in cancel culture or I’m getting bashed and that’s hard to take in, so I really have to give snaps to Naomi for doing that,” says Wilson.
Co-host Napheesa Collier adds that the relationship between athletes and media could be approached much differently.
“It makes me really mad that the media scrutinizing her like they’re entitled to her personal life. You are not entitled to our personal life.
“You would not have a job if it weren’t for the people you’re covering,” Collier says, adding, “So to think that you’re entitled to their life is really frustrating.”
The WNBA stars also speak to the phycological impacts of post-game interviews, especially after a tough loss.
“Sometimes if we just lost a whole game and you’re asking me how does it feel, it’s like, I get you might want the in-depth emotional answer but at the same time… I haven’t even gotten a chance to digest what’s going on,” remarks Wilson.
Collier remembers facing the media after falling to Notre Dame via buzzer-beater in 2018, clearly overcome by emotion.
“I’m annoyed that you’re asking if I’m devastated,” Collier says of the press, “You can see my eyes are clearly puffy, and I’m clearly devastated.”
Collier and Wilson are both hopeful that Osaka’s stand against intrusive questioning may change how these precarious moments are handled in the future.
“It takes a lot of courage when people do stuff like that and they take themselves first saying, ‘this is not good for my mental health I need to take a break,’ and so it would just be great if people would be respectful of that,” says Collier.
Listen to the full conversation on media, mental health and much more on the latest installment of Tea With A & Phee.