Last year, Naomi Osaka was the darling of the liberal media for withdrawing from the French Open because she refused to meet with the media. At this year’s French Open, happily, the decision to exit was made for her on Monday.
Osaka — tennis’ face of left-wing activism, a four-time major winner who renounced her American citizenship to join the Japanese team for the Tokyo Olympics — was bounced in straight sets in the first round by 20-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
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After the 7-5, 6-4 loss to New Jersey native Anisimova, Osaka — true to form — seemed unsure whether she’d be sufficiently “motivated” to take part in the next major, June’s Wimbledon tournament in England.
“I’m not 100 percent sure if I’m going to go [to Wimbledon],” Osaka told the media.
“I would love to go just to get some experience on the grass court, but, like, at the same time for me, it’s kind of, like, I don’t want to say pointless, no pun intended, but I’m the type of player that gets motivated by, like, seeing my ranking go up or like, you know, stuff like that.”
Osaka was the highest-paid female athlete in the world last year with $57 million in earnings, the third year she topped the Forbes list.
“Less than 5 percent of her income came from tennis winnings, however. The vast majority came from endorsement deals with companies such as Nike, Louis Vuitton, and Beats by Dre,” the Free Beacon reported. “She also partnered with NFL legend Tom Brady to release a collection of NFTs.”
Yes, there are even NFTs involved, as if her background story couldn’t be any more insufferable right now.
Should athletes be involved in political activism?
As for her left-wing activism, Osaka famously flew to Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd’s May 2020 death while in police custody, apparently under the misapprehension that her social justice tourism was welcome, necessary or productive.
She penned a piece about her experience there for Esquire, titled “I Never Would’ve Imagined Writing This Two Years Ago,” which laid out “why being ‘not racist’ isn’t enough.”
“I support the movement to defund the police. By that, I don’t necessarily mean to eradicate them altogether,” Osaka wrote at the time. “Some of their funding — like payment plans to cops who have been convicted of crimes –should be re-allocated to social measures within the community: Education, housing and youth programs, which are so often neglected. We need to take a holistic approach to our communities and to keeping each other safe.”
She obviously has since left Minneapolis, although the effects of these policies — encouraged by amateur policy dilettantes outside the city and enacted by the willing progressive politicians who run it — still affect its beleaguered residents.
A year later, Osaka was again a leftist darling for withdrawing from the French Open because she refused to meet with the media. Osaka called the withdrawal an act of “self-care” — and the media loudly concurred, as the Free Beacon noted.
“[H]ow much can it honestly matter if a 23-year-old does or doesn’t turn up to [media briefings] and go through the banalities?” U.K. Guardian columnist Marina Hyde wrote at the time.
“This is TENNIS. Watch the match, listen to the commentary, read the analysis, and if there’s still something you didn’t understand, then honestly just naff off and read a children’s book instead.”
Another Guardian sportswriter, Tumaini Carayol, blamed the French Tennis Federation for Osaka’s withdrawal, saying they forced her “to choose between defiance and the possibility of unprecedented punishments or the deep discomfort of facing the media.”
“Osaka can turn to Instagram and TikTok to push the brands that help make her a fortune but also to show her working out with her boyfriend or sightseeing in Rome,” The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga wrote. “The filter is no longer the press; it’s the athlete herself.”
Of course, tennis doesn’t just exist on social media, so the press was still a filter. They were the ones chronicling her act of “self-care,” after all. They were just praising it because we live in a world where giving up is celebrated — provided the excuse for giving up was suitably woke, of course.
I don’t know if a lack of “motivation” qualifies, but we’ll see whether the media can spin her 2022 French Open ouster — and potential Wimbledon withdrawal — as a radical personal statement of autonomy. For the moment, however, she doesn’t have to worry about meeting with the press. They have other athletes to cover: those who haven’t been bounced from the French Open yet.