Nike and other major sponsors have come out in support of tennis star Naomi Osaka following her decision to withdraw from the French Open also known as Roland Garos. Ranked No. 2 in the world, Osaka had announced on Wednesday (May 26, 2021) she wouldn’t take part in mandatory press events, acknowledging she would be fined for doing so.
As coverage of her decision mounted, Osaka took to Instagram where she let it be known she was withdrawing from the even altogether. Noting for the first time that she struggles with anxiety and depression, she wrote, 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.”
Currently the highest paid female athlete in the world, Osaka was on the receiving end of support from multiple sponsoring companies and individuals. Nike, which signed Osaka to a sponsorship deal in 2019, stated, “Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience.”
Japanese sponsors Nissan and Nissin Foods also issue supportive statements, along with LVMH-owned watch label Tag Heur. In addition to sponsors, multiple tennis players including Serena and Venus Williams, Coco Gauff, Martina Navratilova (here) and Billy Jean King (here) lauded her decision.
NBA star Steph Curry chimed in on her decision to withdraw on Twitter where he wrote, “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. Major respect.”
Osaka won her first match on Saturday and while she took three questions on the court, she bowed out of the press conference following her win. In addition to being fined $15,000 by the French Open, the organizers for the French event along with New York, Australia and U.S. Grand Slam leaders threatened to ban her from their events.
Check out Osaka’s statement below.