Tennis star Naomi Osaka shows us that the sports media must change


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Let's talk, in fact.Let’s talk, in fact. Image: Getty Images

You cannot ask the media to speak about a story that involves the media.

This is the lesson after Naomi Osaka withdrawn from the French Open after being threatened with expulsion from the tournament because of her media boycott. The turmoil around it is generated by those who think they are falling short. Did fans ever think they’d be missing out if Osaka didn’t do post-game press work? A gloomy suggestion at best.

Every argument against Osaka, oddly enough, benefits the press. And it just seems to be the media whining that their jobs are changing. There’s the idea out there that if Osaka is to speak out against the issues that really matter to her – as she did at the US Open last year on police brutality and systematic racism – it has to pay the tribute of daily questioning to earn. But she doesn’t. She proved that yesterday by clearly explaining her situation on her social media, which she can use whenever she wants.

And every athlete can do that. Sure, it will be the message they want out there, conveyed as they see fit. But how far are we from when the PR and HR PR folks on the teams run everything like they do now? At best a stone’s throw.

We heard all of this last year when the media whined that cutting back to Zoom press conferences could become the norm thanks to the pandemic, or that locker room access would be banned forever. And that would irreparably damage the permanent cover. Only journalists in Europe have always worked with this condition, and there is no shortage of in-depth behind-the-scenes stories if you want them to be. Do you also feel that what you read about your favorite team is completely different? So who is really the victim in all of this?

There was an urge to highlight all the players who have resigned themselves to media obligations in the past, but we have no idea how much toll that has taken. They had neither the access nor the freedom to speak openly about their problems, as is the case in Osaka now. There could have been dozens who thought the same way but didn’t feel they had the power to say anything. What did it cost you?

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It feels like it comes from a profession that needs to change shape, and those within that profession are just stubborn to admit it.

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