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After citing mental health-related issues behind skipping press coverage at the 2021 French Open, tennis player Naomi Osaka has inspired former Packers great Brett Favre to give his comments on the state of both Osaka and athletes that are opting out of media interviews.
Favre said the following on his podcast related to the decision made by Osaka and its wave of influence throughout sports, “I do think athletes are held to a different level and a different standard, and rightfully so, because of the money we make.” Favre added, “We should talk to the media. I’m not saying you have to; you chose to be fined or not. There wasn’t anything that if I chose not to speak I would be fined, so I chose not to speak and was fined $25,000, and then that was written into the rule book after that.”
After skipping the media session, Osaka was fined $15,000. Her estimated net worth is roughly $60 million.
Osaka claimed that a “bout of depression” prevented her from speaking with reporters. While many have reached out in support, Favre and other personalities surrounding the issue have declared the move as more of a play based on privilege granted to athletes with a platform.
Osaka’s rise to prominence skyrocketed during the 2018 French Open, where she defeated Serena Williams. Osaka has won a total of two Women’s Tennis Association championship titles and was ranked as a top-10 worldwide female tennis player (#7) in 2018. She is now the No. 2 ranked women’s player in the world, behind Australia’s top-ranked Ashleigh Barty.
Barty gave her own response to the press scandal, admitting that answering reporters is all “part of the job.”
Osaka responded to the controversy at the Open by withdrawing from the event and releasing the following statement:
“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.” She added, “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.”
Favre’s commentary, rooted in perspective from a previous generation of athletes, rings true among the core fanbase of the sports world that still favors tenacity over theatrics—no matter the sport or athlete.
While Favre has supported the discussion around mental health for struggling athletes, both current and retired, Osaka’s controversy related to the media comes at a time when athletes often forego simple responsibilities of being a professional in pursuit of a brand, and even politics.