Osaka’s rep called the reporter a “bully.”
Four-time Grand Slam champion
Naomi Osaka on Monday broke down in tears and walked briefly away during a press conference after a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter asked her about her relationship with the media.
World no. 2 Osaka, 23, has been open about her struggles with anxiety with the press and mental health. Recall the Olympian withdrew from the French Open in May after opting to withdraw from conversations with the press after the French Open and was consequently fined and backlash. The champ has since withdrawn from media responsibilities until August 16 ahead of the Western & Southern Open in Ohio.
“You’re not crazy about dealing with us, especially in this format, yet you have a lot of outside interests that are served by having a media platform,” Paul Daugherty, a columnist for the Cincinnati Inquirer, began. “I guess my question is, how do you balance the two, and also do you have anything you’d like to share with us about what you did say to Simone Biles?”
A visibly struggling Osaka asked reporter to clarify the question, to which she replied:
“For me, I feel like, this is something that — I can’t really speak for everybody, I can only speak for myself — but ever since I was younger, I’ve had a lot of media interest on me, and I think it’s because of my background as well as, you know, how I play, because in the first place I am a tennis player, that’s why a lot of people are interested in me,” she said
“So I would say, in that regards, I’m quite different to a lot of people and I can’t really help that there are some things that I tweet or some things that I say that kind of create a lot of news articles or things like that. And I know that it’s because I’ve won a couple of Grand Slams and I’ve gotten to do a lot of press conferences that these things happen. But I would also say, I’m not really sure how to balance the two, I am figuring out at the same time as you are, I would say.”
Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid, responded to the incident in a statement to the New York Times, calling the reporter a “bully.”
”Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate,” Duguid said. “Really appalling behavior. And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off-court success to the media is a myth — don’t be so self-indulgent.”
Beryl Love, the executive editor of The Cincinnati Enquirer, issued a statement calling the reporter’s question “straightforward.”
“We appreciate the respectful dialogue with Ms. Osaka at the press conference,” Love said, via the USA Today. “It was a straightforward question that we feel led to a meaningful exchange. That said, we sincerely regret that our questioning upset her in any way.”
Before this time, when Osaka backed down from press talk, Megyn Kelly and conservative sports analyst Clay Travis had attacked Osaka’s Sports Illustrated spread, dubbing it hypocritical.
“Since saying she’s too introverted to talk to the media after tennis matches, Naomi Osaka has launched a reality show, a Barbie, and now is on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue,” Republican commentator Clay Travis wrote on Twitter. Kelly agreed, writing, “Let’s not forget the cover of (& interview in) Vogue Japan and Time Mag!”
In a statement to Ben Rothenburg, Stuart Duguid, Osaka’s agent, responded to Daugherty’s comment, saying, “Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Appalling behavior.” He also referred to the journalist as a “bully.”
After taking a moment away from the table, Osaka returned to finish answering questions.