In Support of Naomi Osaka, the Calm App Will Pay Fines for Tennis Players Skipping Press Obligations
Calm is the latest organization to step up and support Naomi Osaka after she chose to withdraw from the French Open on May 31. The tennis phenomenon stepped down from the tournament after being fined $15,000 for choosing not to participate in press conferences to take care of her mental health.
The app, known for its meditations and mindfulness services, shared on Twitter that it plans to pay fines for any player who chooses to skip media appearances in the 2021 Grand Slam (which comprises the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open) for mental health reasons. (Related: The Best Meditation Apps for Beginners)
Not only that, but in support of "Osaka's decision to prioritize her mental health," the company shared on Twitter that it will also match the athlete's fine with a $15,000 donation to French youth sports charity Laureus.
Osaka took to Twitter late last month to share that she will not be attending any press conferences during the French Open because of the hostile environment created by the media.
"I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes' mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one," she wrote on Twitter at the time. "We're often sat there and asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me." She went on to add that tennis organizers should be fined for opting out of press opportunities during tournaments.
Regardless of Osaka's plea, Roland-Garros (aka the French Open) fined her $15,000 for not participating in the press conference following her win against Patricia Maria Tig. Meanwhile, Grand Slam organizers released a joint statement about the penalty, saying that they've made efforts to reach out to Osaka to check on her well-being; however, they've also, "reminded her of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them, and that rules should equally apply to all players," the statement reads. They even noted that if the athlete continues to skip press throughout the tournament, she could face tougher penalties, including being kicked out of the tournament altogether. (Related: Naomi Osaka Withdrew from a Tennis Match to Support the Black Lives Matter Movement)
It was following this statement that Osaka decided to step down from the tournament of her on volition, writing on Twitter that this move would be, "the best thing for the tournament, the other players, and my well-being."
"The truth is that I have suffered from long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that," the 23-year-old added. "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. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can." (Related: Alexi Pappas Is Out to Change How Mental Health Is Seen In Sports)
In response, the French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, and Australian Open shared another statement, commending Osaka for having the strength to speak up about her mental health. They also pledged to better support the mental wellness of athletes in the future.
"Together as a community, we will continue to improve the player experience at our tournaments, including as it relates to media," the organizers shared. "We intend to work alongside the players, the tours, the media, and the broader tennis community to create meaningful improvements. As Grand Slams, we aim to create the stage for the players to achieve the highest accolades in our sport."
In the meantime, though, players can rest assured that if they need to take a step back from the press to protect their mental health, Calm has their back.