The controversy has opened up a dialogue about the regard for athletes’ psychological well-being and how many are mistakenly seen as entertainment figures, instead of human beings who have a life outside of their athletic career. One of Osaka’s first statements about the issue touched on this, stating:
“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 describes answering questions just moments after taking a serious loss in her career to kicking a person while they’re down.
“I've watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well.”
Osaka is the epitome of a successful woman of our era – her stance in defense of mental health included. She serves as an example of what it looks like to overcome the oppression as a woman of color, and still find prosperity. As a woman existing and thriving in the male-dominated world of athletics, this breed of perseverance is one worth applauding.
Despite initial backlash, a large majority of the public recognized the incredible value of prioritizing mental health and allowed this situation to serve as a reminder of the blatant dehumanization of athletes. Although there is still much work to be done, stories like that of Naomi Osaka serve as a shining example of the positive direction our worldview is moving in as a society.
Our job as the next generation of not just athletic spectators, but also teachers, parents, and leaders, is to remember people like Osaka.
It is unequivocally essential that we prioritize the mental health of those around us, especially those with lives that are often publicized and exploited by industries like sports and entertainment.
These cultural trailblazers defy predetermined societal structures and subject themselves to controversy and criticism to build a more compassionate world for generations to come.