The times they sure are a changing. The emergence of social media has altered the way business is being done across all industries.
Celebrities can broadcast their message to millions with just a few taps on the phone. They no longer need the media to do that for them. Control has changed hands.
Naomi Osaka, who single-handidly shut down a full day of play, knows this.
Yesterday, the biggest star on the horizon in the women’s game announced she would not take part in any of the required press conferences at the French Open which begins on Sunday (draw comes out in an hour).
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 26, 2021
“I’m writing this to say I’m not going to do any press during Roland Garros. 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.
“We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds, and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.”
Osaka cited “mental health” issues, but the reality is, most of this “Gen Z” generation want to control their message, their image. They can do that on social media, they can’t do that in an open press conference environment where they might be asked and might have to answer tough, critical questions.
Osaka struggles on clay, we know that. And chances are she’s going to lose at some point in Paris and she does not want to face any post-loss scrutiny or “people that doubt me”.
Osaka will be fined, as much as $20K for each missed press conference. But will she really resume her meetings with the media once she gets back on her favored surfaces? Will other players adopt a similar posture, foregoing talking to the media and instead just post their thoughts on social media?
And how would the tours – WTA and ATP – handle a rash of missed pressers?
Tennis players are no different than musicians and actors and other athletes. It’s all entertainment. It’s all one giant TV reality show. But the rules are different.
Does Taylor Swift have to do a press conference after one of her shows?
Does Anne Hathaway have to face the media after filming a movie?
Does the person who gets voted off the island on Survivor go right to the interview room?
You could argue they all should, but the truth is there is no real public urgency or outcry for them to do it. Sports, though, for some reason has been different. We want to hear from the stars, win or especially after a loss. Why? Because we are used to it.
At least in tennis, Osaka is going to (or trying to) change that way of thinking.
This day was coming. Let’s see how it plays out.
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