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What really is Naomi Osaka’s job?

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What really is Naomi Osaka’s job?

It is possible to see the events that led to the tennis superstar Naomi osaka leaving the French Open on Monday as a simple contract dispute. A worker with leverage did not like the duty she was asked to take on (sitting at press conferences) and was willing to take a pay cut (or, in this case, pay a large fine) to avoid it. In that case, the intransigence of the French Tennis Federation, which runs the tournament, is expected: is handling the press not just part of the job of a professional athlete?

But what exactly is Osaka’s job? Between May 2020 and May 2021, she earned $ 55.2 million, maintaining her status as the highest paid female athlete in history, most of them through sponsorships and media partnerships, not awards. Much of her wealth comes from being a public figure, not a tennis player, and as many different types of celebrities have shown in the past decade, access to the media is no longer a requirement for the very, very famous.

Her rare ability remains an important part of her appeal to the companies that sponsor her, and she clearly continues to personally care about playing and winning. Perhaps that is why the threat of expulsion from the competition, together with the aggressive media response from the organizers of the Roland-Garros tournament, seemed somewhat absurd. Finally, his account even tweeted and deleted a rather blatant attack on Osaka in the form of a meme. (“They understood the task”, the tweet read, along with photos of four different players sitting for the media).

It is common to dismiss celebrities who complain of intrusive press attention, as seen instructively in the backlash to Prince harry other Meghan Markleactual output. For athletes especially, post-game questioning with an occasionally callous group of reporters is both a tradition and a cog in the machine that keeps sports media going. If the ritual must be defended by threatening a single player who spoke to its psychological toll, it may not actually be as essential as some think. Furthermore, the French Open has its own complicated history of fights with athletes. nach Serena Williams wore a Nike catsuit to compete in the tournament in 2018, the body-con attire was later banned. “It will no longer be accepted,” said the federation president. “You have to respect the game and the place.”

But the controversy over Osaka’s decision to bypass the press also speaks to trends outside of sports. In an age where celebrities have a direct line to the public via social media and are more sensitive to their image management, it might seem that journalists have a vested interest in holding on to hotspots that still remain. exist. But to the extent that junkets, press conferences and other impromptu interviews still exist, they happen because the celebrity has something to get out of it, be it publicity for a project or consideration of awards. After NBC canceled the Golden Globe broadcast last month, actors like Scarlett Johansson mentioned that for a long time they did not like interacting with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, although they continued to do so.

When it comes to Grand Slams, players get their awards on the court, not in front of the microphone. Nor is Osaka hostile to the press; in February, opened up about her relationship with the rapper Cordae on the pages of GQ and shared personal details about his anxiety to win. What The New Yorker noted this week, she has a long history of speaking eloquently at press conferences, even when her emotions have overwhelmed her.

Somehow, it seems that Osaka wanted to take advantage of a situational concern, to be too eager to speak to the press this time, in a systemic change that could help other athletes in the future. Had Osaka released his more detailed statement on his mental health last week, his decision to avoid the press during the tournament might have attracted less skepticism and led to a different result. Still, it seems cruel to force a young woman to present deeply personal information about her depression in exchange for being able to wield the power she truly gained from being a top-tier player.

He was clearly faced with an unattractive set of options. She could play well and win, or she could follow the rules by interacting with the press, even if the resulting anxiety made her less likely to perform. For someone with at least $ 15,000 to spare, the amount Osaka was fined on Sunday, the decision would seem simple enough. What came after that otherwise simple decision meant that Osaka could not win, in any condition.

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