Sharing their support. After Naomi Osaka announced her withdrawal from the French Open, her fellow athletes and several celebrities praised her decision via social media.
The athlete, 23, decided to exit the Grand Slam tournament on Monday, May 31, following a dispute with organizers over her participation in press conferences during the event.
The tennis star, who is currently ranked No. 2 in the world, said on Wednesday, May 26, that she would not take part in post-game news conferences to protect her mental health. Within hours, the French Open’s tournament referee fined her $15,000, and leaders of the four Grand Slam tournaments threatened to expel her from the event if she continued her boycott.
The day after winning her first-round match on Sunday, May 30, Osaka announced that she was taking herself out of contention.
“This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” she wrote via Instagram. “I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.”
The former Vogue cover star added that her original statement was not to meant to “trivialize mental health,” especially because she herself has “suffered long bouts since of depression” since competing in the 2018 U.S. Open, where she defeated Serena Williams to win her first Grand Slam.
That victory was famously marred by the crowd, who started booing during the trophy ceremony. Williams, 39, was attempting to beat Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 singles titles.
“I felt a little bit sad because I wasn’t really sure if they were booing at me or if it wasn’t the outcome that they wanted,” Osaka told the Today show at the time. “And then I also could sympathize because I’ve been a fan of Serena my whole life and I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win.”
Before her withdrawal on Monday, the Japanese-born star had not previously revealed her struggle with depression.
“Anyone that knows me know I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety,” she continued in her post. “Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.”
She finished by announcing that she is going to “take some time away from the court right now,” adding that she wants to continue the discussion about players’ mental health at a later date.
“When the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans,” she wrote. “Anyways hope you are all doing well and staying safe, love you guys I’ll see you when I see you.”
Keep scrolling to see how athletes and other celebrities reacted to Osaka’s decision to leave the tournament:
The tennis phenom’s boyfriend offered his public support with a comment on her original Instagram statement. “No need to apologize to ANYBODY!” he wrote.
“As one who also deals with social anxiety, I admire your courage and stand in solidarity with you, @naomiosaka,” the Oscar winner tweeted, adding the hashtags, “#WCW #ProtectYourPeace #YourMentalHealthMatters.”
“I’m inspired by @NaomiOsaka’s courage,” the former secretary of state tweeted. “This is a moment for all of us — especially the press — to ask why it’s not enough to let her stellar performance on the court speak for itself.”
“It takes bravery and strength to put your mental health first,” the Scandal alum wrote via Twitter. “I applaud you, and stand by you @naomiosaka.”
“For whatever it’s worth — I’m proud of Naomi Osaka for putting her mental health, her well being above everything,” the Grammy winner tweeted. “If we don’t take care of our health, our wellness — well then who will? What do we have if we don’t have our health? Don’t we know by now that success isn’t worth our life?” In a second tweet, the “So What” singer added, “She’s (Naomi) an example I would show my children — ‘Listen, babies, you can work hard to master your craft, but you do it on your own terms, and screw anyone if they don’t get it.'”
“I’m happy you realize your health and well being are your priority,” the singer wrote via Twitter. “Take care of YOU always! You are the only You that You have!”
“We with you,” tweeted the NBA’s 2020 Rookie of the Year.
“Stay strong,” the tennis star tweeted in reply to Osaka’s statement about her withdrawal. “I admire your vulnerability.”
Jada Pinkett Smith
“Shouldn’t one’s athletic ability be the focus and what’s most important?” the Red Table Talk host asked via Twitter. “@naomiosaka was clearly ready to play & had enough awareness of self to recognize her mental health challenges around the media. Mental health should be one’s first consideration. I’m proud of her. Love to all challenged in this way. It’s okay to take care of you first … at all costs.”
“We are with you,” the NFL star tweeted, adding the hashtag, “#Courage.”
“You thoughtfully spoke your truth,” the Grey’s Anatomy star commented via Instagram.
“Take care of yourself,” the Larry Crowne actress said, leaving a comment on Osaka’s Instagram statement. “Stay well.”
“Good for you,” the comedian wrote via Instagram.
“You do what’s best for you,” the American Idol winner said in a comment on Osaka’s Instagram post. “Period. Sending you so much love.”
In a post-match news conference following her first victory at the tournament, the Olympic gold medalist said that she can relate to Osaka’s struggles with anxiety. “I feel for Naomi,” Williams, 39, told the Associated Press. “Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can. That’s the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can.”
“Mental health is health,” Williams’ husband tweeted. “Wishing @naomiosaka all the best. Also important for sports leagues & sports media to take note: the unbundling (thanks to internet tech) is happening to every single industry — this new era is one where athletes will have more & more leverage than ever before; support them, protect them, invest in them.”
“Ya played ya self,” the World Cup winner tweeted at the French Open’s official account. “Proud of Naomi. She a world treasure y’all.”
Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock
“I am so sad about Naomi Osaka,” the tennis legend wrote via Twitter. “I truly hope she will be OK. As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental & emotional aspect gets short shrift. This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi — we are all pulling for you!”
The WNBA icon, who is engaged to Rapinoe, retweeted Osaka’s original statement with a single red heart emoji.
Billie Jean King
“It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression,” King tweeted after her initial comments on Osaka’s decision not to speak to the press drew criticism. “Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs. We wish her well.”
“Proud of you, @naomiosaka,” the New York congresswoman tweeted, along with the tennis player’s full statement.
“Even though it shouldn’t have to be like this, I’m proud of you for putting your foot down,” the Olympic gold medalist tweeted. “Your mental health matters and should always come first.”
“You shouldn’t ever have to make a decision like this — but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be don’t protect their own,” the Golden State Warrior wrote via Twitter. “Major respect.”
“Take care of yourself like Naomi Osaka,” tweeted the Selma director.
“Good for you @naomiosaka,” the West Wing actor tweeted. “If there’s anything that doesn’t have to go on, especially when you’re physical or mental health is at stake, it’s the show. This is a great example for everyone in and out of the public eye.”
“It’s so sad that we are in a time that when a young person tells you they need help or a break, people respond with anger and a lack of support!” the WNBA pioneer tweeted. “I stand with you @naomiosaka. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.”
“So proud of you,” the tennis star commented on Osaka’s post announcing her withdrawal. “Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon!”
The Olympic gold medalist left a series of praying hands emojis as a comment on Osaka’s Instagram.
“We’re behind you babygirl,” the tennis star wrote via Instagram. “Take the time you need!”
“We are all with you Queen,” the Brooklyn Nets player commented via Instagram. “Just Be You, that will always be enough.”
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Shutterstock